After winning six straight games to start the Palomino League season, the PenCities White Sox finally suffered their first loss of the summer. But manager Lenny Souza welcomed the tough competition.
The White Sox (7-1) continued their annual rivalry with the Reno Muckdogs, as the Sparks, Nevada-based team made the four-hour drive to the Bay Area to play five games in three days, including a doubleheader with the White Sox Saturday at Sea Cloud Park.
“I feel like we haven’t really been tested this year,” Souza said. “So, it was nice to finally be tested.”
The Muckdogs were founded by manager Ken Camel 15 years ago, and the team has now played the White Sox in consecutive seasons for approximately half that time. The matchup always presents Souza’s club with a quality opponent, even more the case this year as Reno travelled with only the collegiate contingent of its 32-man roster, with the team’s local high schools all holding graduations in recent days.
The White Sox had their win streak halted with a 2-1 loss in the first game of the twin bill. Muckdogs right-hander Brendan Talonen — an all-Golden Valley Conference pitcher as a community college freshman at Feather River College — worked six innings to earn the win.
In Game 2, though, the White Sox bounced back with a 4-1 victory. Right-hander Jordan Brandenburg (Carlmont), more synonymous with offense, whirled six innings to earn the win. Then right-hander Nathan Peng dazzled with a blazing fastball by striking out the side in the seventh to close it out.
“[Peng] was good,” Camel said. “It’s late in the day and you’ve got face a guy who was 87-88 (mph), it makes it tough when you’re trying to tie it up.”
Reno had its chances to catch PenCities on the scoreboard in the late innings. In the sixth, the Muckdogs plated their only run on a sacrifice fly by Derek Laferriere, but it almost tied the game as, with runners at the corners, the fly ball was driven to the fence in deep left field. Colton Forman followed with a similar blast that White Sox left fielder Tommy Ozawa hauled in just in front of the fence.
“I thought they were well enough hit to do some damage,” said Camel, who noted both runs in Game 1 were scored on hits to left field, including an RBI double by Laferriere. “But I think they learned well enough from the first game, so they were playing a little deeper.”
In the seventh, Reno set the table with a walk and a hit batsman to start the inning. But Peng settled in, chewing off the inside half of the plate to record three straight strikeouts to end the threat, and the game.
Like Brandenburg, Peng is more known for his bat. In fact, the tandem was batting in the No. 3 and 4 spots in the order respectively Saturday. But Peng throws gas. It was his second pitching appearance of the summer. The right-hander out of Saratoga High School has recorded saves in both of them.
“He’s good,” Souza said. “He’s impressive. We got lucky with him.”
PenCities is on the verge of fielding its entire roster for the first time this summer. Additions this week included leadoff hitter Noah Marcello (Serra) and first baseman Kyle Nichol (Aragon), as well as Brandenburg returning to the lineup after missing the second game of last Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of the Santa Cruz Warriors.
Brandenburg was kicking himself after missing the doubleheader nightcap against Santa Cruz. It was for a good cause, as he left to umpire a Little League game in San Carlos. Had he known how good the hitting conditions would get in Game 2 though — the White Sox homered five times in the game — he may have stuck around.
“We only hit one jack in the first game,” Brandenburg said. “Then (after the second game) when I got a text that they hit five jakcs, I was like, ‘wow.’”
Facing the Muckdogs was a different beast. The White Sox totaled 11 hits in Game 2, all singles. Nichol got PenCities on the board with a two-run single on a flare to left field in the first inning. In the second, Marcelo and Brandenburg singled to set the table, and Peng produced an RBI single to center before Mitchell Plane added an RBI groundout.
Nichol — a recent graduate from Aragon after three years as a varsity starter — said the White Sox refocused after scoring just one run in Game 1.
“We know that we’re a good team,” Nichol said. “We just had to piece it together. We know we can hit. We’ve done it before. We just have to keep doing it.”
Tag(s): 18+ White Sox (College)