It was a decent day at the plate for the Napa Valley College baseball team, with eight starters contributing to an 12-hit attack.
But the Storm needed an explosive offensive performance Friday to keep up with visiting Shasta, which pounded out 17 hits en route to a 16-7 victory in the opener of a three-game series.
“I’ll take the 12 hits and seven runs. We just left a lot of guys on base, and you can’t expect to win when you give up 16 runs,” Napa Valley head coach Bob Freschi said. “But they’re 9-2 now, one of the hottest teams in NorCal, and they took advantage of everything we gave them.”
The teams return to Storm Field today for a doubleheader starting at 10 a.m., with 2012 Napa High product Randy Keen scheduled to start on the mound for Napa Valley (5-5) in the opener. Rico Rodriguez is set to be the Storm’s starting pitcher in the second game.
These will be Napa Valley’s last two games before it opens Bay Valley Conference action Thursday at home against Los Medanos.
Rodriguez, a sophomore out of Hogan High, was asked if he was scared of Shasta’s line-up.
“Not at all,” he said. “I’ve just got to keep the ball down, just hit my spots.”
“Especially with the short porch to right and the wind blowing to straight out to right,” added fellow sophomore Jordan Grubbs, a 2011 Justin-Siena graduate. “You’ve got to keep it down or it’ll fly out of here.”
Kevin Coffee, Grubbs, Rodriguez and Steven Contursi led the Storm on Friday with two hits each in the upper part of the batting order.
Contursi (2 for 5, RBI, run) singled in the second but was stranded. In the third, Christian Gazdar (1 for 3, run, walk) and Coffee (2 for 3, two runs, walk, hit by pitch) singled, but each was forced out on a fielder’s choice.
After Shasta (9-2) put up a four-spot in the top of the fourth to take a 9-0 lead, Napa Valley got on the board, and back in the game, with a five-run fourth.
Clean-up hitter Eric Peruzzi — the only NVC starter without a hit Friday despite recently going for the cycle — opened the rally with a walk. Bryce Brewer (1 for 5) added a one-out single, and after a strikeout, both scored on a Gazdar ground ball that was misplayed by the shortstop. After a Brandon Ortega (1 for 5) hit an RBI single, Coffee was hit by a pitch, and Grubbs and Rodriguez followed with RBI singles.
“I was just being patient today,” Rodriguez said. “(Before grounding out) in my first at-bat, he started me off with a fastball, so I was sitting on that the next time because I knew he was going to throw it on the first pitch.”
Nick Villazon (1 for 4) singled in the fifth but was stranded by Shasta starter Mike Nowak.
The Storm pulled within 10-7 in the sixth.
Coffee, Grubbs (2 for 5, RBI, run) and Rodriguez (2 for 5, RBI) led off with successive singles, and Coffee and Grubbs scored on sacrifice flies by Peruzzi and Contursi.
That was it for Nowak, but the Knights’ relievers halted Napa Valley’s comeback. Zach Finley faced only seven batters In the seventh and eighth, striking out three and walking one. In the ninth, Zack Larsen gave up a a Contursi leadoff single, struck out the next two batters looking, the gave up a pinch-hit double to Devante Harris but stranded him.
“We came out flat,” Grubbs said. “We got it going, but that can’t be the reason you’re scoring runs. You’ve got to do it all game.”
Napa Valley starting pitcher Alex Fernandez (22⁄3 innings, five runs, six hits, three strikeouts, three walks) was pulled during the third inning, a roller-coaster frame for the freshman out of Napa High. After striking out the Knights’ No. 2 and No. 3 batters, he gave up four straight singles and two runs that upped Shasta’s lead to 5-0.
Brandon Maio came in and got the next batter to pop up to end the rally. But the Palm Springs product gave up four runs in the fourth on two doubles, three singles and a hit batter. Maio (22⁄3 innings, five runs, six hits, four strikeouts, one walk) was pulled after hitting another batter with one out in the seventh. Joey Evans (12⁄3 innings, one run, two walks, two strikeouts) and Kurtis Huffman (one inning, four runs, five hits, two strikeouts, hit batter) finished up.
Brad Lohse went 4 for 5 with two doubles, three RBIs and three runs to lead Shasta. Other Knights with multiple hits were Austin Coleman (3 for 4, three RBIs), Andrew Ratterman (2 for 4, two RBIs, four runs), Jason Jackson (2 for 5, double, three RBIs, two runs), Kenneth Fudge (2 for 6, RBI, two runs) and Lance Ibesate (2 for 6, RBI).
Grubbs agreed it was a tough way to start a series against such a tough opponent.
“Especially at home,” he said. “But we’ve got to tip our hats. They came in and were ready to play and we weren’t. When we’re winning games there’s a pattern: our starters are going deep in the game and guys coming out of the bullpen are throwing strikes. It just didn’t happen for us today. We need to keep it low and throw strikes. When you fall behind good hitters, they’re going to hit the fastball.”
Freschi expects Lohse — the 6-foot-4, 220-pound freshman cousin of Kyle Lohse, who has pitched for four major-league teams over the last 12 years — to start in Game 1 today.
“He’s got a good fastball, a good hook and not much of a change, but we’ll see tomorrow,” Freschi said. “I’m hoping Randy Keen will be able to have it. We need to pitch at the knees and not walk guys, not hit guys.”