TAKING AIM Healdsburg’s Sal Batres came into the June 20 game after starter Derek Schaefer gave up three runs in the first inning, but was himself pulled in the 5th for the eventual winning pitcher, Elliot Joslin.

After the 2001 season the Oakland Athletics lost three of their key players, and general manager Billy Beane responded by adopting the statistical analytics that came to be known as “sabermetrics” to reshape the team for 2002. That year the Oakland A’s put together a 20-game winning streak, the most recent major league team to reach that number.

The Prune Packers still have a way to go, but not too far. As they head north for a six-game road trip they are sitting on a 16-0 record, six of them league games that put them miles ahead of their nearest rivals in the new Pacific Empire League… with one exception.

Not all of their 16 wins have been easy. Far from it. Despite some blowouts embarrassing to both victor and vanquished—nobody really boasts about a 26-2 win like the Packers inflicted on the Alameda Anchors on June 9—several recent games went into an extra inning or two, and only a walk-off win kept the streak alive.

Summit meeting
SUMMIT Coach Joey Gomes, second from left, delivers the news to pitcher Sal Batres (No. 15) that he’s being relieved, with two runners on base in the fifth inning. The move paid off: The Packers went on to win, 11-6.

But all of those wins were at home; until this week the Packers had not played a game on the road. The home field advantage is real, and the next three games in Medford, Oregon, should determine if the Prune Packers can sustain their drive.

The Pack has met the Rogues of Medford three times already, all in the past week, and won all three. Last Tuesday, June 18, the Packers spotted the Rogues a run in the top of the second inning, then came back to tie in the same inning. They added three more in the fourth inning, sparked by Jonas Salk’s first home run of the year. 

In the sixth inning Joey Kramer’s two-run homer (his sixth) pretty much put the game out of reach, but Cade Campbell’s two-run shot in the seventh was the icing. Healdsburg ended up winning, 8-2.

The next night was anything but a blowout. The determined Oregonians scored their third-inning run again then added two in the fifth and another in the sixth, taking a surprising 4-3 lead into the ninth inning.

With Alec Belardes on the mound, the Rogues went down in order in the top of the inning, then Kramer popped his seventh homer to tie the game. Logan Sutter doubled, and walks to Max Debiec and Cade Campbell loaded the bases. Rogues pitcher Kurt Marton, unable to find the zone, hit Kenny Decelle on a 1-0 pitch and the winning run trotted home.

After dispatching the Rogues 11-6 the next night, the Prune Packers opened a three-game series against the Humboldt Crabs—who brought along the Crab Grass Brass Band to enliven the stands with between-inning melodies. The home team swept the series, including a 13-1 romp on Saturday, June 22, that saw triples from Healdsburg’s Maddox Molony, Eamonn Lance and Hideki Prather.

Joey Kramer (6) lofts a sacrifice fly for a run in a 2023 game. (Christian Kallen)

Sunday’s final game of the series saw recent arrival Jake Tatom of the University of Houston go three-for-three, raising his batting average over his first four games with the team to an eye-opening .667. The final score, 9-1, sends the Packers off on their Oregon adventure sitting pretty.

But wait: Though the team has scored easy wins over PEL rivals Medford, Humboldt and Solano, they have yet to play two league teams: the West Coast Kings and the Lincoln Potters. They meet them back home the first week of July—and the Potters of Placer County currently boast a 20-3 record.

That Wednesday, July 3, meeting will be a game to watch, and the best way to watch a game like that is live.

First pitch for all weekday home games is 6pm, 12:30pm on Sundays, at Rec Park, 515 Piper St.

Previous articleBeat the Heat With Summer Movies
Next articleCalifornia Prune Promoters Pick the Packers
Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here