After taking a strike on the inside corner in the Eighth inning Sunday, Pirates’ catcher Josh Arkin turned on another inside pitch; as if on a mechanical zip-line, the ball rocketed between the center and left fielders scoring the final two runs of the Pirates’ 5-3 victory over the Redbirds.
Ventura had trailed for most of the game, and all three of their previous runs had come by wild pitch or passed ball. However, in the seventh inning, an undermanned Solana Beach was forced to send Ethan Paulson and his plus-six ERA to the mound.
Paulson was unable to develop chemistry with his catcher, Jordan Katnik. Cole Edwards was the first batter Paulson saw, and the Pirates' second baseman promptly singled off him. The battery allowed two runs in the seventh inning, one on a wild pitch and one on a passed ball, the latter of which scored Edwards to tie the game at three.
All-Star Jerrald Murray got the call for the Pirates and allowed three runs, although all of them came in the second inning. He was able to get through five innings without further damage, demonstrating an ability to strand runners on base.
Murray’s counterpart, Even Stewart, also pitched better with runners in scoring position than he did with nobody on. He walked or hit six Pirates, but also induced three double plays in his four innings of work Sunday.
After the fourth inning, the Pirates had left five runners on base, four of whom had been stranded in scoring position. Redbirds' infielder Connor Shadroo played a large role in that statistic, as the shortstop put on a defensive clinic Sunday. He earned two assists on one play in the first inning, preventing the Pirates from expanding their lead to two.
Max Sterner, also an All-Star, entered the game in the sixth inning and was the eventual winning pitcher. He pitched the final four innings of the game under stressful two-run deficit circumstances. After allowing a walk and a double to his first two batters, Sterner recorded the first of his six strikeouts. He loaded the bases in that inning, but put down Katnik swining at the third pitch to get out of the jam.
Paulson was tagged with the loss Sunday.
Five Pirates will compete in the All-Star Game Wednesday, July 9 at Amerige Park in Fullerton. The festivities begin at 5:45 p.m.