In a spirited battle for second place in the Sonoma County League baseball chase, the Petaluma Trojans played a fundamentally sound game to earn a decisive 8-1 win over Piner as they edged over the .500 mark for only the second time this season.
Unfortunately for the host Prospectors, it was a game to forget almost immediately after the Senior Day ceremonies had ended. Piner went on to commit five errors, and made several other questionable defensive decisions that contributed to six unearned runs.
The raggedness of the Piner defense did not detract from an outstanding complete game pitching performance by Trojan starter Scott Hilbert, who struck out nine hitters to pick up the victory. Hilbert was staked to a three-run lead in the first inning, and never wavered. taking a shutout into the final frame. Consecutive doubles in the bottom of the seventh inning broke up his bid for a shutout.
Petaluma got off to a fast start after its leadoff hitter reached on an error and came round to score on a single by third baseman Jaymes Potts. Two more runs scored in the inning on a fielder's choice and double steal that the Prospectors failed to defend.
The early rally turned out to be all Hilbert needed, as he steadily punched his way through the Piner lineup with a good fastball and occasional off-speed curve. The game was never in doubt. His nine strike outs gave the senior right hander a team-leading 65 for the season.
Petaluma sent eight more batters to the plate against young Prospector pitcher Tony Martignoli, and pushed across a couple more runs to make things more comfortable for Hilbert. Once again, Piner picked off a runner at first, who fell down, forcing a run down and Cameron Meyers galloped in to score. The play looked almost intentional, and once again the run scored without a throw to the plate.
The second run scored on an error by Piner shortstop Niko Formosa that allowed hustling Blake Patrick to cross the plate with no throw. Patrick came back later in the contest to account for a couple of doubles and scored twice.
Once again, catcher Austin Thomason sparkled behind the plate for the Trojans. His laser throw nailed a runner at second base when Piner tested the Petaluma defense on a first and third situation.
Later in the game, Thomason made a routine back-up play at first base, and threw quickly to second after scooping up an overthrow to choke off any thoughts by a Prospector runner of reaching scoring position.
The Trojan victory gives them an overall 12-11 record for the year, but more importantly makes them 9-2 in the SCL and gives them a full game advantage over the Prospectors. The only other time Petaluma has sniffed the atmosphere over .500 came when the Trojans defeated Los Lomas in the season opener.
Chase Dunbar entered the game in the seventh inning for Petaluma, and roped a two-run single that doubled his RBI output for the season.
Piner slips to 17-7 overall and 8-4 in its first baseball season in the Sonoma County League. Most of the damage on the disappointing afternoon was self inflicted by the Piner defense.
The Prospectors and Trojans have split the regular season series, and most likely will face off in the annual SCL post-season tournament.