FULLERTON — Leading 20-3, Ventura County Pirates’ players stood in the dugout tracking a three-hopper to second base through the early evening shadows, then jubilantly charged the field celebrating the final out of their Sunset Baseball League Championship at Goodwin Filed in Fullerton Sunday.
“Our guys played for each other,” Pirates’ general manager and head coach George Vranau said. “They truly played as a team during the summer.”
Though the grounder cemented the series sweep, no single moment enabled Ventura County’s success this year. The Pirates methodically constructed their championship after being swept by the OC Legends in the Finals one year ago.
Vranau placed the blame for the 2018 loss on his shoulders for failing to construct an adequate pitching staff. He was determined not to let that happen in 2019.
This year, the Pirates used every pitcher in attendance during the series against the Redbirds. The staff combined to allow just four runs in the two-game sweep.
Deandrey Carter (6-0) crafted a masterpiece on the mound in game 1. He threw seven innings with seven strikeouts and one walk in the winning effort. Carter pitched out of jams as the Redbirds scored just one run on eight hits against him.
Carter led the SBL with 46 strikeouts this season. Five of the top eight pitchers in that category play for Ventura County.
“I can’t say enough about the pitching staff,” Vranau said. “I’m absolutely floored at what they accomplished.”
Matthew Sox, who fielded the grounder at second during the final play in game 2, was the closer in game 1. He entered the game with a runner on first and nobody out and retired the next three batters for the save.
Ethan Durant (6-1) took the mound in game 2 and hurled four shutout innings.
Vranau handed the ball to Curren Larson for the final out of game 2, an act which he said was a conscious acknowledgement of his importance to the team this year. Larson led the Pirates with a 1.00 ERA.
All five of Larson’s starts were Quality Starts, an achievement he shares with Carter for the team lead. Larson and Carter also tied for a team-leading six wins.
Offensively, Ventura County punished the Redbirds. Six different Pirates hit a double in game 2 and designated hitter Adrian Campos added a triple.
Center Fielder Blake Mann went 3-6 and scored four times in the Finals. He fouled off two-strike offerings until he found pitches he could drive.
In the first game of the playoffs, Mann went 2-2 with two homers after entering the game in the sixth inning. He was 5-10 with four RBIs in the playoffs.
Another Pirates’ outfielder, Cole Kitchen, was 2-2 with four RBIs in game 2. He went 3-5 with two walks and two runs in the series. Kitchen finished the year batting .464 in 69 at-bats.
“[The Redbirds] tried to throw some off-speed in there, but today they were kinda out of the zone so all I had to do was just spit on those and then hit the fastballs,”Kitchen said.
The team lead in batting average went to second baseman Kyle Soberano who batted .472 this summer. He laid down a bunt single and hit a double in game 2.
The Ventura County Pirates travel to Bishop Canyon Field in Los Angeles to play an exhibition game against the LAPD Centurions 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 30.