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Almost Perfect

June 15, 2015, ARCATA

You can’t win them all, but you can come darn close.

After reeling off 11 straight wins to start their season, the Humboldt Crabs finally dropped a game in their series finale against the Seattle Studs on Sunday.

“A really good start,” said Crabs manager Tyson Fisher. “I told the guys how happy and how proud I am of them for getting off to such a good start. Now’s the tough part, you’ve got to bounce back from a loss, but this group’s been resilient this entire season so far, and I have a lot of confidence that Tuesday when we get back they’ll be more hungry and ready to go.”

Resilient is right. But what’s interesting is how. With only two home runs – one an inside-the-parker – they haven’t shown a ton of power, but the pitching has been solid, especially out of the bullpen, and they seem to have the knack for the timely hit.

“We string at-bats together,” said Fisher. “We definitely can’t sit back and wait for a home run to put us ahead, we’ve got to be able to string one, two, three at-bats together, and hope for a little luck. As long as you put together good at-bats, you’re going to win more often than not.”

Coming off a perfect opening week, the Crabs welcomed the San Francisco Seals to town on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, the pitching came from starter Donald Robinson and reliever Scott Parker. Robinson, who plays at College of the Redwoods, danced in and out of trouble but didn’t yield a run in six innings, and Parker finished things of with three strong innings of relief.

The Crabs for their part only managed one run against Seals starter Nick Boyett, but got to reliever Pedro Hidalgo in the fifth. The big blow came from big Bobby Schuman, whose two-out, two-run knock made it 5-0. Schuman would drive in another run in the seventh, his fourth of the game and the final run in a 6-1 win.

The next night, the Crabs would revisit the script from opening week – late dramatics. Once again unable to do much against the Seals’ starter, they reached the seventh inning facing a 4-0 deficit. 

But leadoff hitter Beau Bozett got things started with a single, and Jesse Medrano did the same. Then the Seals bullpen began issuing free passes. Three straight Crabs walked, pushing Bozett and Medrano across the plate. Schuman drove in another run on a fielder’s choice, and pinch-hitter Dillon Kelley tied the game with a sacrifice fly.

After a perfect top of the eighth by Dillon Houser, Ryan Dobson led off the bottom of the frame with a single and stole second. But neither Bozett nor Medrano could get him to third, so Allen Smoot came up in need of some two-out magic, and he delivered, singling to right to give the Crabs the lead. 

Austin Root, who is making a strong case for the closer role, inherited that 5-4 lead, allowing one base runner in the ninth but also recording two strikeouts in earning his third save.

Having swept the Seals, the Crabs turned their attention to the storied Seattle Studs, who came into town with the same number of losses the Crabs had: zero.

With a combined record of 20-0, something had to give. But starter Drew Weston made sure it wasn’t the Crabs who would yield first. Weston allowed just two hits while striking out seven in seven innings.

And while Weston was compiling that line, the Crabs built a fragile 2-0 lead on RBI singles by Smoot and Dobson in the third and fourth, respectively, but it stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth. That’s when, with two on and two out, new arrival Cooper Brunner doubled just over the left fielder’s head to double the Crabs’ lead, 4-0.

The insurance runs loomed very large on the board when the Studs loaded the bases with one out in the ninth. But they would only get one run on a sacrifice fly, and Root – though this time not in a save situation – once again ended the 4-1 victory with a strikeout.

Saturday evening’s game was a classic see-saw battle. The Studs’ Mark Rockey emphatically opened the scoring with a monster blast on to Highway 101 in the second, and they added another run in the third. but Ben Petersen and Dobson were key to a pair of two-run rallies by the Crabs in the fourth and sixth as the Crabs jumped ahead 4-2.

Alas, the lead was very short-lived. Rockey led off the seventh with his second freeway ball of the evening, and that jolted the Studs’ offense to life in a four-run, six-hit inning as they re-took the lead, one which they would take into the bottom of the ninth.

But as they’ve managed to do so often on the young season, the Crabs refused to die. Smoot singled, Kelley was hit by a pitch, and Schuman walked, and suddenly the bases were loaded. After a pitching changed, Nick Spini made it 5-4 with a fielder’s choice, and Petersen followed with a game-tying single.

Medrano looked to play the walkoff hero, but his line drive toward left was snagged by the third baseman and Petersen was caught too far off first for a double play that sent the game into extras.

Lucas Halstead came up with two on and two out in the bottom of the tenth, looking to send everyone home, but he popped one up on the infield and threw his bat away in disgust, thinking he had failed. But nighttime popups at the Arcata Ball Park can be tricky, and the ball eluded the glove Rockey at first base. Dobson, who had been 180 feet from home at the start of the play, shifted gears and charged home, arriving just before the throw.

The comeback well finally ran dry however under the Sunday afternoon sun. The Studs came roaring out of the gate, getting a three-run freeway bomb from Dylan LaVelle before the Crabs recorded an out. The Crabs never really recovered and lost the series finale 6-3.

Still, taking a series against the Studs was an impressive feat. This week will present another test, with six games in six days from Tuesday to Sunday, against the Auburn Wildcats and Walnut Creek Crawdads.

Media Coverage:
• KIEM News Ch. 3 Crabs Corner: http://kiem-tv.com/video/crabs-corner-show-3-june-14

• Eureka Times-Standard Newspaper article: http://www.times-standard.com/sports/20150614/baseball-crabs-comeback-bid-falls-short-lose-first-game-of-season