Christopher De Leon had shown flashes of greatness in previous outings for the Napa Silverados this season. However, what the pitcher did Friday night at Napa Valley College was much more than just a flash.
The native of the Dominican Republic struck out a franchise-record 16 batters over eight masterful innings in a 5-0 victory over the Pittsburg Diamonds.
No pitcher in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs had struck out that many batters in a game this season. De Leon also did not allow a hit until Morgan Blatnik reached on an infield single with two outs in the top of the eighth.
De Leon may have had a little divine intervention in his masterful performance on the mound on Saturday.
“When I woke up this morning, I just asked God to help me pitch the best game of my life and I did,” he said. “I pray before every game and no matter what happens, I just go out there trying to do my best.”
The former Pittsburgh Pirates farmhand threw 142 pitches, 83 of them for strikes. That was the second highest pitch total for a Silverados starter this season. De Leon attributed much of his success to adjusting from his previous start against the Diamonds.
“In my last start I missed a few times on the location of my fastball, so I really focused on getting ahead in the count with that pitch tonight,” he explained. “Tito (Fuentes Jr., Napa manager) did a great job calling a lot of the pitches for me tonight, as well.”
Offensively, the Silverados got all the support they needed in the first two frames thanks in large part to centerfielder Ray Jones. The San Diego native tripled home a pair in the second inning to give the Silverados their five-run advantage. Jones finished 2 for 3 with a pair of RBIs and a run scored, and has now recorded a hit in each of his last nine games.
For the second consecutive night, the Silverados (30-44) gained ground on the Vallejo Admirals (33-41) after an Admirals loss on Friday. Napa trails the Admirals by three games in the race for the final playoff position in the Pacific Association. The teams clash on Saturday night in Vallejo in a pivotal battle in the race for the postseason with just six games remaining on the slate.