In the team’s playoff opener on Friday, No.2 seeded Cosumnes River College shutout No.15 seeded College of Marin 2-0 to win the first game of the best-of-three series. Matt Stafford started for the Hawks’ first playoff game and threw 7 2/3 shutout innings.
Stafford picked up his ninth win of the season, coming through once again as the team’s top starter.
“He threw like a number one guy, he’s our number one guy and Matty (Stafford) did a great job,” said head coach Tony Bloomfield. “It’s important, he comes out to win the first game and now someone’s gotta beat us twice.”
Stafford started the first strong, recorded three straight outs and carried his early momentum into the second. After allowing a one-out single, Stafford picked off Mariners’ first baseman Marcus Chiu to record the second out.
Following an error by Brett Bloomfield, that put Mariners’ right fielder Jason Rodriguez on first, Stafford allowed a one-out walk to Marin center fielder Chris Hayman, but escaped the jam with two pop outs to end the inning.
In the bottom of the third, Hawks catcher Nicco Toni drilled a solo home run over the left field wall to put Cosumnes River a 1-0 lead.
“That was good. You want to score first, if you score first, you have a really good chance at the playoffs,” said Tony Bloomfield.
Following Toni’s home run, center fielder Peyton Wheatley drew a walk, then advanced to third on a mental mistake by the Mariners. When second baseman Devin Pettengill laid down a bunt down the third base line, the Mariners third baseman ran in to get it and left third base open, allowing Wheatley to advance from second.
The mistake would prove costly for the Mariners when Hawks’ third baseman Brooks Day grounded into a double play, while Wheatley came around to score and make it a 2-0 game. Heading into the fourth, Stafford now had the early run support to help keep the pressure on the Mariners.
“When you’re ahead, you already make them feel like they have to do something special to come back,” Stafford said. “If you just keep throwing strikes and hitting your spots, coach called a great game, so their not going to do much.”
Stafford would allow a one-out single to Chiu, but the Hawks were once again successful taking away the Marlins’ running game. The inning ended when Toni threw out Chiu trying to steal second with two outs.
“I like to pitch out a lot just to try and take the offense away from another coach. If he sees me pitching out a lot, he might not want to run his offense like normal,” Tony Bloomfield said.
Toni and Wheatley led off the bottom of the fourth with a walk and hit, but the Hawks were unable to add on to their lead.
After allowing two hits in the fifth inning, Stafford silenced the Mariners’ bats in the sixth and seventh as he retired the side in order. After throwing seven shutout innings, Stafford returned to the mound in the eighth and after allowing a two-out single, was replaced by pitcher Thomas Galart to attempt the four-out save.
“He’s been the guy, he’s been pitching really well the last month. He’s a guy to be reckoned with in my opinion, he’s a big, physical kid out there,” said Tony Bloomfield. “He throws hard and is a perfect matchup after Stafford, who is a soft-throwing guy, so it’s a good complement to each other.”
Galart induced a hard groundout to second base that bounced off Pettengill, before Pettengill quickly recovered and threw to first to escape the jam. The Hawks’ coaches scouting report on the Mariners’ hitters struggles with fastballs paid off as Galart struck out the side in the ninth to end the game and record the save.
“It was huge, just knowing that I could be able to attack them with it and that they were struggling with it and I could have all the confidence in the world in it,” Galart said.
The Hawks will continue the best-of-three series with game two at home on Saturday at 11 a.m. If the Mariners win, game three will take place 30 minutes after game two.