SONOMA — The Napa Silverados suffered their first loss of the season Sunday night, falling behind 4-0 in the first inning before ultimately losing 9-4 against the Sonoma Stompers at Arnold Field’s Palooza Park.
After a scorching 2-0 start to their Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs season saw the Silverados outscore their opponents 25-1, Napa manager Tito Fuentes Jr. said a “lackadaisical effort” made the difference in this one.
“We just addressed that right now,” Fuentes said after the game. “We came out with low effort. Not ready to play, not focused and not prepared.”
Fuentes suggested many members of his team, despite having only a short trip to the road game, showed up late, missed batting practice, and ultimately paid the price for their lack of preparation.
After Napa dominated the Salina Stockade 21-1 on Saturday afternoon, before the Stockade traveled to Sonoma (1-1) and knocked off the Stompers 9-5 that night, perhaps the Silverados underestimated the league’s new member.
The Stompers took advantage early, scoring four runs against Napa starting pitcher Billy Felo before he could register a single out. Sonoma initially got on the board when Chris Kwitzer reached on an error in the first that scored leadoff man Nick Gotta. The very next at-bat, Dondrei Hubbard sent Felo’s hanging curveball over the bleachers in deep left field for a three-run rocket.
Miscues cost the Silverados again in the second inning when Hubbard reached on another error that scored a run, before Brock Hartley knocked in a fielder’s choice RBI that put the lead at 6-0.
Felo shook off his poor start to last five innings on the mound, earning four of the six runs he allowed while giving up three hits and four walks and fanning three swinging Stompers.
The early deficit seemed to wake up the Silverados, or at least leadoff man Willie Salas. He struck back with a two-run bomb over the short fence in right field in the third inning to cut the deficit to 6-2.
After losing leadoff batter Ray Jones to the independent Class AA Gary SouthShore Rail Cats, Fuentes said he’s slotted Salas in the No. 1 spot because “he has the same kind of power (as Jones) and he can use all fields.”
Leadoff hitters typically profile as smaller, quicker guys who can hit for contact, get on base and use their speed to make a steal or two. The native Venezuelan fits that profile, but adds a power element can help spark an offense.
“I work hard to do what I’m capable of,” Salas said. “If I can use power combined with a little contact to get on base, that’s my game.”
Salas was 2 for 4 on the day, hitting the aforementioned homer, legging out an infield single in the seventh inning, and reaching first in the ninth inning on an error.
Napa’s comeback bid started to amalgamate in the sixth inning, as four walks and a pair of Sonoma errors allowed the Silverados’ Malvin Nunes and Josh Montelongo to score even though the visitors did not register a single hit in the inning.
The Stompers did not sit on their hands with a 6-4 advantage, however, tacking on three insurance runs in the next half inning.
A fielder’s choice RBI from Gotta was followed up by a deep, two-run double from Miles Williams that made it 9-4 and put the game out of reach.
The Silverados attempted to rally again, but grounded into a pair of inning-ending double plays that doomed their comeback chances in the seventh and ninth.
“We understand that we didn’t do the things that we were supposed to do,” Salas said. “At this level, you make errors, you pay. But we’ll be fine. We like our team and we feel like we are behind each player.”
After their first two off-days of the season, the Silverados will hope they can recapture the swagger of their first two games when they the host reigning league champions, the San Rafael Pacifics, on Wednesday at Miner Family Field. The first pitch is at 5:05 p.m. at the Napa Valley College ballpark.
With both teams tied at 2-1 atop the league standings, Fuentes is excited to have his team in a position to slide into first place early on after Napa went 31-49 last season.
“We need to beat San Rafael on Wednesday and take the lead back,” Fuentes said. “Just got to get back to playing Silverado baseball.”