After being on the road for two weeks, the Neptune Beach Pearl finally returned to the Bay Area for a three game series against Far West rivals the Walnut Creek Crawdads July 6-8. Friday’s series opener saw the Pearl struggle offensively, only producing one run in the first and failing to score the rest of the night. “Their starting pitcher did a pretty good job of keeping our guys off balance,” Coach Brant Cummings said. “Aside from getting two hits, we committed four errors, which doesn’t help. They scored two runs in the first inning and never hit a ball out of the infield. It was one of those nights where you had to be perfect, and we weren’t.” With a lack of offensive power, the Pearl fell to the Crawdads 2-1 to lose the first of the series.
The Pearl looked to rally on Saturday as they kicked off game 2 of the series, with righthander Kyle Hassna (San Jose State) getting the start on the mound. “The slider and cutter were working good for me and I was just trying to get balls in play,” Hassna said. “When you throw strikes, you keep the D engaged, so it was big for me to throw strikes.”Hassna, along with Michael Casper (Princeton), Jake Chutney (Seattle) and Ryan Millison (Sierra College) combined for nine scoreless innings, only giving up seven hits and no runs.
Offensively, the Pearl’s bats came alive to give them a lead they didn’t let go off all game. Roger Boulden (Chico State), Clay Williamson (Cal State Fullerton) and Blake Bass (Texas Tech) all had RBI hits in the third to get the action started, with Oscar Aguirre (Florida International) and Alan Baldwin (Hawaii) chiming in with an RBI single apiece, before DonAndre Clark (St. Mary’s) hit a 2 RBI double as the whole lineup saw the plate in the sixth inning. That was enough to give the Pearl a 7-0 victory to tie the series up.
With one game to take the series, the Pearl came out on Sunday with a combination of strong pitching and good offense at the plate. Jeff Boulware (Sonoma State) started things off with a 2 RBI single in the third to give the team a 2-0 lead, and Gary Detwiler (Sonoma State) followed up in the fifth with an RBI double to push the Pearl further out in front. They would pick up one more run in the sixth to remain at 4-0. The pitching staff of Will Anderson (Fresno State), Daniel Hancock (South Florida), Steven Swift (Washington) and Tyler Cobb (Chabot College) kept the Crawdads off the board through eight innings, though Jordan Haseltine (USF) and Collin Monagle (Sierra College) struggled in the top of the ninth, ultimately tying the game at 4 runs apiece. After getting the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Boulware hit an RBI broken-bat walk-off single to give the Pearl a 5-4 victory as they took the series over the Crawdads.
“We had a lot of good pitching today; eight innings and no runs,” Cummings said. When it came to the tight situation at the bottom of the ninth, Cummings knew he had the right man at the plate in Boulware. Boulware himself wasn’t worried about the pressure either. “Right before I go up, I thank God for the situation that I have the chance to win the game,” Boulware said. “We’re tied, if I don’t get a hit, we’re not going to lose, but I go up there and try and be thankful. I thank God for the situation and that takes the pressure off my back.”
After this series, the Pearl now stand at 19-11 through the season and 9-3 in Far West League action. Their next homestand begins Friday July 13th against the Humboldt Crabs.