The Sonora Wildcats and Summerville Bears faced off on the baseball diamond Monday afternoon in Tuolumne.
SONORA WILDCATS southpaw Ryan Stevenson delivers against Summerville on Monday. Stevenson earned the win pitching two hitless innings. BILL ROZAK/UNION DEMOCRAT
It was a battle of experience vs. youth and the senior-laden Wildcats defeated the youthful Bears 13-0 in five innings.
“We’re just a little older than Summerville,” said Wildcat head coach Scott Johnson. “We start eight seniors, so we’re a little more experienced. And we’re coming off a tough tournament where we played Lincoln, and the team that won the tournament, Pittman, we beat them earlier this year. And then we finished with Oakdale. We played against three top-notch teams so our kids were geared up and ready to hit the ball today.”
The Wildcats started seven seniors on Monday. The Bears only have five seniors and just three started
Sonora started quickly, plating five runs in the top of the first.
With one out, Wyatt Johnson walked and scored a few moments later on a Dylan Fernandes double to right-center field.
Bradley Begley stung a single to center to plate Fernandes and with two out, Grant Dodge doubled to the left-field fence to drive home Begley.
Wildcat junior Justin Payne capped the rally with a soaring two-run homer to left field — Sonora’s first long ball of the season.
“Justin has been hitting phenomenal,” said Fernandes. “He’s been one of the biggest bats for us offensively. It seemed like he was real nervous at the beginning of the season coming to varsity, but now he fits right in with us. He’s an unbelievable player.”
After being staked to a 5-0 lead, Wildcat junior Ryan Stevenson was almost unhittable, striking out the side in the bottom of the first.
The Wildcats scored three more in the second inning. The key hit was a line-drive, two-out, two-run single to left by Gino Balestrieri.
Stevenson finished his afternoon on the mound by collecting two more strikeouts in the second inning and earned his third victory of the season.
The Bears can’t be too concerned about the lack of production against Stevenson. Not one team has had much success against the powerful lefty. Stevenson owns a 0.48 earned run average. He’s given up just one earned run in six outings. He has also struck out 21 batters through 14 2/3 innings of work.
“My hats off to Sonora,” said Bears head coach Larry Gold. “They’ve got a potent team over there and there’s no doubt they should be battling for the Valley Oak League title. I’m glad we got the opportunity to play them because we got to see Stevenson who is a flat out hurler. I’ve had the opportunity to coach Ryan back in our traveling days. I loved him then and I love him now because he can really bring that ball.”
Sonora scored three more in the top of the third on hits by Stevenson, Karson Canaday and Fernandes.
Johnson took over on the mound for Sonora to start the third and finished the game allowing just one infield hit to Dalton Day while striking out three in three innings to earn the save.
“I think today we played extremely well as a team and as individuals,” said Fernandes. “It all came together for us today. Our pitching staff was absolutely amazing with Stevenson starting and then Wyatt came in and pitched his butt off too. Our hitting was unbelievable. The pitching staff was amazing and our defense backed them up.”
For Sonora (6-3), Fernandes went 3-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs, Johnson went 2-for-3 with three runs scored, Canaday went 2-for-2 with two runs scored and Begley went 1-for-2 with two RBIs.
“We fought really hard,” said Stevenson. “Everybody did their job up-and-down the lineup. Our pitching was fantastic. A one-hitter through five, you can’t do much better than that. Everybody did their job well.”
Summerville’s most youthful player, freshman Bryce Farrell, showed why the Bears will be a team to be reckoned with in the near future.
Farrell, who played shortstop for the first three innings, came into pitch the final two innings. Farrell pelted the strike zone and struck out three while allowing two hits and one earned run.
“I was really impressed with their freshman they brought in — really impressed,” said Coach Johnson. “He played good at shortstop making a nice pick at second base. They’re gonna be strong soon enough.”
“Bryce is gonna be one of our main guys this year,” said Gold. “I told our pitching coach Steve Farrell, his father, he’s gonna be a workhorse. He came in and I thought he did a great job against that Sonora team. That’s a point of optimism for us. We know we’ve got him and he’s only a freshman. We’ve got some great expectations for him. He can swing the bat too. We’re looking forward to having him out there on the mound and playing for us at the varsity level.”
The Wildcats next will host Calaveras on Friday, weather permitting, at 5:30 p.m. while the Bears will play at Lathrop on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.
“We’re young and we’re a little inexperienced so it’s gonna take us a little while for us to come around,” said Gold. “That lineup Sonora has, they can hit the ball. They’re the real deal. I’m just glad we had the opportunity to play them so we can see, that’s what it’s like and that’s what it’s about. If we work hard enough, hopefully we can try to follow in those footsteps. We know we’re gonna see pitching like that in our league and we know we’re gonna see guys who can hit. So today was about learning and to understand we have to make adjustments with the bat and on defense.”
“We were stoked to come in here and play this team because we got rained out last year and we really wanted this game,” said Fernandes. “From here we’re just gonna keep going up. I’ve got high expectations for this team.”