In their first meeting since losing to the Humboldt Crabs in the 2011 Far West League championships, the Neptune Beach Pearl hosted the defending champions July 13-15th, looking to retake first place in the league.
The opening game of the series on July 13th saw the Pearl’s offense get an early start with Peter Creamer (Eastern New Mexico) hitting a RBI single in the first inning to tie the game at 1-1. Two innings later, Creamer would come up big again with another RBI single to score Casey Watkins (Cal State Fullerton), who took advantage of a passed ball, as well as stealing second, to find his way home. “If it weren’t for Pete Creamer tonight, we wouldn’t have gotten on the board,” Coach Brant Cummings said. “I was just trying to get a pitch early in the count and just drive it,” Creamer said. “It was a tough loss today.” The defense struggled against the Crabs, committing three errors, two of which allowed the Crabs to add two runs in the sixth inning. Unable to get the bats hot, the Pearl fell to the Crabs in Game One with a final score of 4-2.
“Pitching wise, I thought we did well,” Cummings said. “I thought we pitched good enough to win.” Starting pitcher Jake Popovich (University of San Francisco) had a solid outing for the Pearl, throwing six innings and giving up three runs. Matt Evanoff (Berkeley) came in to pitch the seventh and eighth innings, and prevented the Crabs from adding any more runs, before making way for Ty Cobb (Chabot College), who closed out the ninth and gave up one run.
“When we play in games like this, every inning really counts,” Cummings said. “We have to play better defense.” When it came to shaking off the day’s disappointing loss, Creamer had the right idea on how to stay focused. “We just need to go out tomorrow and everyone needs to battle every pitch,” Creamer said. “We just need to stay with it and we’ll have good results.”
Game 2 of the series got off to an interesting start; after the national anthem, the Crabs stood still in front of the dugout and would not move, prompting the Pearl to follow suit. Part of the Pearl stayed put, challenging the entire Humboldt team. “About half the team remained vigilant at the line, valiantly defending against the whole of the other team,” pitcher Michael Casper (Princeton) said. “Pete Creamer paced the line, providing sustenance and support.” For an inning and a half, no one moved. “Our boys stood strong and held their ground,” Popovich said. “We never back down from a challenge, and it was a major part of the victory.” After the strange beginning, the Pearl looked to pick up a win against the Crabs to prove which team was in charge. The action got started in the second inning as the team scored five runs off the bats of Oscar Aguirre (Florida International), Clay Williamson (Cal State Fullerton) and Gary Detwiler (Sonoma State), who all had RBI singles. Joe Moroney (Kansas) struck in the sixth inning with a RBI single to give the Pearl a final score of 6-3 over the Crabs.
On the mound, starter Chris Garrison (Kentucky) pitched through five, giving up three hits and one run while striking out six. Relievers Jake Chutney (Seattle University) and Kyle Hassna (San Jose State) pitched two and one innings respectively to keep the Pearl in the game, before Logan Scott (Berkeley) came in to finish the ninth.
“We did a better job of putting the ball in play,” Cummings said. “Defensively, I think we played well. Pitching wise, we walked seven but when we needed to make pitches, we did.” The team was successful today because “we just got after it today and hit the ball,” Aguirre said. The Crabs broke down on the mound and the Pearl capitalized on that when it counted, giving them a lead that rarely looked in doubt. The 6-3 victory marks the Pearl’s first career win over the Crabs.
Looking to take the series, the Pearl was back in action for Game 3 on July 15th. The Crabs struck early, picking up two runs in the first and tacking on another in the second. The Pearl stayed alive when Bob Cruikshank (University of San Francisco) hit a three-run homerun in the third to tie the game at 3-3, but starting pitcher Steven Swift (Washington) gave up two more runs in the fifth before being substituted out of the game because of injury. Roger Boulden (Chico State) hit a RBI single to bring the Pearl back into contention but they would be unable to add any more runs. Reliever Ryan Millison (Sierra College) threw 1 2/3 innings and gave up one run, and Will Anderson (Fresno State) came in during the seventh, giving up three runs in the eighth to put the Crabs ahead 8-4. The bottom of the order was huge for the Pearl, as Moroney, in the eighth spot, and DonAndre Clark, batting ninth, had four hits between the two, with Moroney scoring off of Alan Baldwin’s (Hawaii) RBI single in the seventh. After hitting a batter, Jordan Louie, who came on to close out the game, got the final Crab to hit into a double play, but the offense was unable to make anything happen in the bottom of the ninth. Ultimately, the Pearl was unable to catch up and fell to the Crabs 9-5.
Despite a disappointing loss in the final game, as well as in the overall series, the Pearl has now seen what the 2012 Crabs have to offer, and the team hopes to get another shot later this season in the Far West League playoffs. The Pearl will now hit the road to play against the San Francisco Seagulls, whom they beat earlier this season 19-1 and 6-0 in a doubleheader June 15th, and they return home Wednesday the 18th to take on the Nor Cal Longhorns.