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  • Writer's pictureHugo Traverso

Summer Baseball Wraps Up with 3 Sonoma County Teams Dominating

Summer Baseball wrapped up Sunday in California and 3 Sonoma County teams dominated their competition. The Petaluma Leghorns, Athletic Edge Express and the Healdsburg Prune Packers all had fantastic seasons, finishing with fantastic records and even competing for championships. All three teams are in different league structures with the Legorns, a 19U American Legion team, the Express, a 19U travel team and the Prune Packers, a collegiate summer travel ball team in the CCL. All 3 teams are very well respected in California and are managed by smart and talented managers.

Athletic Edge came back this year with great success behind former minor league baseball player Jeff Inglin. He played 10 years in the minor leagues with 226 games at the Triple A level and is now working to bring back the Express. He has been successful as this year, the Express accumulated 30+ wins in around 45 games with a team of talented JUCO and NAIA players. The team was lead on the batting side by Ayden Herguth, an incoming redshirt freshman at SRJC who recently graduated Healdsburg High School. In 65 plate appearences, Herguth batted .418 with a 1.056 OPS and had 11 RBI. Herguth's high school teammate Sammy Vanden Heuvel batted .368 and recently committed to George Fox University, a prestigious Division 3 program where Sammy will have a great opportunity to thrive as a baseball player. Cooper Wood, another incoming freshman at SRJC, batted .343 with an .841 OPS in 90 plate appearences and had 9 RBI. Incoming SRJC freshman Vero Poueu lead the team in homers with 3 homers and 15 RBI. In pitching, Luke Dillon had over 51 innings pitched with a 5-2 record in 8 games started with an ERA of 4.38. Brice Cox had a 3.37 ERA with a 3-0 record in 25 games with 40 innings pitched. Athletic Edge is back and looked good this season, so next year will be another exciting year for the Express.

The Petaluma Leghorns are managed by Spencer Finkbohner, and are one of Northern California's premier American Legion teams. They won the California State Tournament last year at Fresno State and earned a trip back to the tournament this year where they finished 3rd. The Leghorns have some of the best players from around the Bay Area and Finkbohner had this to say about how he recruits such great players, "A lot of it is word of mouth... you figure players like Dante Vachini and Jack Lazark, they want to have a good Summer, but they also want to be competetive and they know how to wins and chances are, their closest friends and the best players at their own high schools... it helps attract better and better players. Also, the coaches in the area have grown and understand what we try to do for the Summer... bring the best competition to us and let's go out and have some fun." The Leghorns are lead on offense by Dante Vachini and Brady Boyd. Vachini batted .397 in 152 plate appearences and stole 20 bases while Boyd smacked 20 doubles and 5 homers and stole 7 bases. Russell Freedheim, Raul Valdivia and Anthony Del Prete were the top 3 pitchers for the Leghorns and lead the team in wins, each with 4. Freedheim threw over 700 pitches, Valdivia threw nearly 600 and Del Prete threw just over 500. The Leghorns had a stacked schedule, facing teams like the Sonoma Stompers from the CCL and the Fresno A's, another top colleigate summer travel team. Finkbohner mentioned that the reason he loads the schedule is so they are ready for the State Tournament every year, "Going back to my playing days, it was always the same team and seeing the same faces. It really just burnt me out as a player and as a coach so I just wanted to do something a little different. American Legion switched up their rules so now you only have to play 10 games against Legion teams so I made it a point to only play 10 American Legion teams. In between that, go play the best, bringing De La Salle up to come get us in a doubleheader, that was really good for my ball club, having the Sac Yankees come down. They were probably the best team we played all Summer... That was really some good growing points for us." The Leghorns even practiced and played with wooden bats all Summer to bring in better teams, "American Legion is typically all metal bat, but we decided to swing wood all Summer so that also helped attract some of these college teams like the (NorCal) Warriors, the Alameda Anchors 4th of July Tournament, those are all college teams that swing wood all Summer so that was a little different for us, being a lot of high school hitters, putting wood in our hand, it's definitely a different ballgame." He even mentioned going to the Dakotas next year with the Wyoming State Champion Cheyenne Post Six Sixers for an American Legion Tournament that would consist of teams from around the western US. The Leghorns are in a good spot and are set up for more success next season.

Raul Valdivia jumping over Jack Lazark to make a throw to first Credit: @raul_valdivia22

The Healdsburg Prune Packers are the most recent team in Sonoma County to see success as after going down 1-0 in the Best-of-3 CCL Championship Series to the Arroyo Seco Saints, they came back in Game 2 to tie up the series and send it a winner take all Game 3 on Sunday. The Packers opened the scoring in the 2nd with a run, but the Saints tied up in the 3rd. The teams traded runs in the 5th, but the Packers went on a 6 run run in the 6th and 7th. The Saints tried for a comeback, scoring 3 in the 8th, but it wasn't enough as the Packers took the game and the Championship. The Packers have been wildly successful over the past few years much like the Leghorns, facing off with some of the best summer travel ball teams in the CCL North Division and in non-CCL play. With their championship won on Sunday, they have now won 3 consecutive CCL championships and manager Joey Gomes brings in the best and is arguably the best coach in the CCL. He is very well respected amongst college coaches and they send their players to develop their game over the Summer in Healdsburg. The Pack have developed top MLB players like Baltimore top prospect Dylan Beavers, Chicago White Sox Outfielder Andrew Vaughn and Miami Marlins reliever Anthony Bender. Outfielder Cameron Nickens lead the Pack in homers with 6 this Summer while Connor Charpiot lead them in average with .410. On defense, in 13 games as a reliever, Brian McBroom has a 0.61 ERA, leading the team among relievers who have pitched 10+ innings. Before he got hurt, Andres Galan was pitching amazingly and had a 0 ERA in 4 games started (17 IP). The Packers have just kept on winning and look like a dynasty could be or already has been created.

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