Sunday, May 30, 2010

Seals give Orange County the cold shoulder - twice

There's a reason they play winter ball in Arizona, and spend the spring down there and in Florida... Baseball is more fun when it's hot, or warm at least! Baseball in the freezing cold wind of Royal Athletic Park is anything but pleasant. Saturday night the parkas, blankets, sleeping bags, and down jackets made an appearance at RAP as the Seals hosted Orange County in a double-header of shortened seven-inning games to make up for Friday night's rain-out.

Game one started earlier than usual at 5:00, and drew no more than a couple hundred fans to start the game. As the night wore on, the crowd grew in size to a more respectable Victoria baseball crowd, but numbers were still held well below expectation due to the freezing winds.

200 hardy fans prepare for a long night of baseball

The game itself was a pitchers duel from the start, with starters Jesse Smith for OC and Aaron Trolia for Victoria giving up only 3 hits between them over the first 4 innings. Colin Moro put the Seals ahead in the bottom of the 5th inning with his first HR of the season, a solo shot to left center. The Flyers Ben Johnson got that back in the top of the 6th with his league-leading 4th home run, and the Flyers added another run in the top of the 7th to take a 2-1 lead into the Seals last at bat.

Rally caps were out, and once again they came through. Terry McClain continued to build his reputation for clutch hitting by driving in Wilver Perez with the tying run from second after a well-timed steal. This set the stage nicely for new player-coach Brian Rios to come through with his first home run and RBIs of the season with a magnificent walk-off 2-run homer to end the game. Rios was met at home plate by the entire team as they bounced him back to the dugout.

This was the first "clean" game of the year for the Seals, as no errors were committed.

Third Base Brian Rios hits the next pitch out for a walk-off 2-run HR in Game 1

After a short break, a couple hot chocolates, and a few hundred more fans arrived at the park, game two of the double header saw the Seals Chris Bodishbaugh take on Brett Smith for the Flyers. The second game was back and forth, and featured some stellar defensive play by both teams. Sitting Eric Pringle, the Seals mixed their lineup by moving Perez to short, and playing Brian Rios at second base to give Shane Cronin some time at 3rd base. Cronin the Barbarian didn't disappoint, going deep in the second inning to keep the Seals within a run of the Flyers, who had jumped out to an early 3-1 lead.

T-Mac stands in during game 2 of Saturday's double-header

The key play came in the bottom of the 6th inning. With two outs and the game tied at five, Wilver Perez hit a routine fly ball to right field. Flyers fielder Ben Johnson played it casual and the ball bounced of the side of his glove, allowing Sean Smith to score from second on the error.

Seals closer Brandon Vilafuerte couldn't get the job done in the top of seven, giving up a run to force "extra innings" and extend the game into the 8th, as the Seals were unable to score. With most of the crowd heading for the exits, Vilafuerte kept the Flyers scoreless, setting the stage for yet another walk-off win. After a base hit by Chris Van Rossom and a bunt by Matt Kavanaugh, the Flyers Tyler Keeble made a horrible throw that sailed over first base, allowing Van-Awesome to scamper home with the winning run.

The Seals are now 3-0 against Orange County, and lead the division with a 6-2 record. Sunday's game against Orange County at 1:30 is the final game of the opening home stand of 2010.