By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Come-from-behind victories build confidence and Analy’s walk-off win Tuesday against Sonoma Valley gives the Tigers an early advantage in league play.
Analy had contributions up and down the lineup in its 6-5 opening win in Sonoma County League action. Leading the way were relief pitcher Jae Wagner keeping the Tigers close and first baseman Sam Wells breaking out of a slump including banging the game winning hit.
“I was looking fastball. I just threw my hands at it,” Wells said of the game winner to right field to knock in pinch runner Laird Whisman.
That the Tigers came back from a five-run deficit was largely due to Wagner’s strong 3» innings of shutout work.
“You just try to hold them long enough so the offense can chip away,” Wagner said. “We’ve been staying in games better this year.”
Sonoma Valley might have figured too soon that a road win was in the Dragons’ grasp. Losing momentum in the final several innings, Sonoma Valley couldn’t hold off the host team.
“We got too content. We just need to bring it the whole game,” said Jonah Son, a Dragons senior leader. “We will pick each other up.”
With both teams playing well in the early season, the league opener was expected to be a challenging contest.
A two-out second-inning rally sparked Sonoma Valley. The big hit was outfielder Vinnie Albano’s two-run triple scoring a pair of runs.
Two innings later shortstop Dan Deely stroked a bases loaded single to right field, pushing across another pair of Dragons for the 5-0 lead.
Sonoma Valley batters often battled with long turns at the plate against Analy starter Garrett Hill, who yielded six bases on balls in three-plus innings. Hill also struck out five, pitching well enough to keep the game close.
Scoreless through three innings, Analy scored its first run on a sacrifice fly from third baseman Jacob Royer.
Still, starting pitcher Jimmy Flatt limited the damage. The final out came on a sharp relay exchange from outfielder Richie Nunez to Deely and then third baseman CJ Vitale, nailing an Analy base runner following one of Wells’ three singles in the game.
Analy added a run in each of the next two innings, on singles from shortstop Darin Newman and outfielder Evan Hill, who came off the bench.
Devon Graff, another Sonoma Valley starter, recorded the final two outs in the sixth inning to hold the Sonoma Valley lead.
Pitching is a strong suit for both teams. Sonoma Valley already has six complete games. Analy allows less than two earned runs a game.
Often going with a tight curve and getting ahead of batters, Wagner scattered three hits and walked only one batter to keep Sonoma Valley from scoring again.
The winning rally came with a runner on and two outs. Center fielder Dylan Mathias hit a two-strike double to left for the first run. Then Royer singled up the middle. Deely managed to get his glove on the ball, but lost control long enough for Mathias to score from second base, tying the contest.
Following a steal of second by pinch runner Whisman, the senior Wells battled in another plate appearance. While his first hits of the season came Monday, Wells has been improving, including a go ahead sacrifice fly in Analy’s previous win.
“Coach has been putting me in more and more,” he said. “I’ve been more relaxed. I’ve just got a lot of confidence.”
After fouling off pitches to stay alive with a full count, Wells lined an offering to right field, strong enough to bring Whisman home ahead of the throw.