ARCATA – So that’s what a losing streak feels like.
After plowing through the first third of the season like a freight train – winning 15 of their first 16 games, including their series opener against the Walnut Creek Crawdads on Friday, June 19 – the Humboldt Crabs’ locomotive ran out of steam, as the team dropped the final two games of the weekend.
“I think Walnut Creek did a good job of coming in here, and after Friday night when they didn’t play very well, they turned the tides on us,” said Crabs manager Tyson Fisher. “We weren’t ready to go Saturday, and Walnut Creek was.”
The Crabs had taken the opener 10-7 in a seesaw battle on Friday night thanks to contributions from up and down the lineup and another stellar outing by the bullpen – relievers Jeremiah Moore, Blake Edmonson and Austin Root combined to give up just one hit and one run in four innings.
But on Saturday, June 20, while the Crabs again got great pitching, the offense fizzled. A first inning run attributable to Beau Bozett’s speed would be all they would get against a cadre of Crawdads pitchers, who kept the Crabs just off-balance enough to keep them off the scoreboard the rest of the way in a 2-1 win.
“We didn’t swing the bats all that well on Saturday, we got some hits but we didn’t get the timely hits — and they did,” Fischer said.
It was a tough-luck Crabs debut for new arrival Justin Mullins, who allowed just the two runs in five innings but was tagged with the loss.
The offensive ineptitude continued well into Sunday, June 21, as the Crabs managed virtually nothing against starter Ethan Kenkel. By the time the Crabs finally broke a 13-inning scoring drought in the seventh, they trailed 5-0, largely on the strength of a towering three-run homer to left by the Crawdads’ Nick Oar.
And the Crabs almost worked some more of their late-inning magic. Almost.
With Kenkel out of the game and the Crawdads committing a couple of defensive blunders, the Crabs climbed to within a run at 5-4 and still had the bases loaded and one out. But Ryan Dobson grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to abruptly end the rally. They would get no closer and a five-run ninth by the Crawdads sealed the game and the series.
“Baseball’s a game of momentum, with the swings and things, that’s a huge aspect,” Fisher said. “They definitely took the momentum (on Saturday) and ran with it for the rest of the series.”
The Crabs had bounced back nicely from their first loss of the year the previous weekend. They swept a rare three-game midweek set against the Auburn Wildcats before playing the Crawdads. Coming off that first loss, they responded big time by pounding the Wildcats 13-0 in the opener, and the next night was much the same in a 9-3 decision.
The Wildcats did not go quietly in the finale however. Thursday night’s game was tied 1-1 into the ninth, and Auburn actually went ahead 2-1 in the top of the frame.
But they couldn’t close the deal, and Bobby Schuman’s bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the inning tied things at two and brought up another newcomer, Brad Pluschkell, who only needed a fly ball to the outfield to win it, and he delivered the win and the sweep.
Now, however, the team will need to shake off its first losing streak of the year. But Fisher is not too concerned.
“We’re still 15-3, so there’s not a whole lot to hang our heads about,” said Fisher. “But we need to get back to out-working teams.”
After a two-game set against the Watsonville Aggies, they also will need to figure out life on the road, as they head out on their only road trip of the season starting Friday, starting with a renewal of the so-called Highway 299 Rivalry against the Redding Colt 45s.
“It’s an opportunity for the guys to play in different venues, and it should be fun,” said Fisher. “It doesn’t matter if we’re at home or if we’re away, we’re always the ones with the targets, and they guys understand that, we just need to play the game hard and leave everything out there.”