The Healdsburg Prune Packers opened their 2023 season in dynamic style by winning six straight games against four different opponents. All games were played at their home field at Rec Park before near-capacity crowds who cheered their home team loudly and, as it turned out, frequently.
Then they traveled to Lincoln, northeast of Sacramento, and easily defeated the Potters for the third time this year, 8-0.
The scores were a clear indication of the dominance the 100-plus-year-old community baseball team brings to the California Collegiate League, an 11-team, two-division league that’s been in business for 30 years.
The Packers, or “the Pack” as they style themselves, have made no bones about the fact that they are aiming for a third straight title as champions of the California Collegiate League. And to judge by the first week of play, their chances are good.
The 2023 season began on June 6 with a dramatic come-from-behind win on the back of Alex Leopard’s three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The next night, a similar win was secured when two runs, again in the bottom of the eighth inning, provided the margin they needed to eke out the 4-3 victory over the Bay Area Seals.
Then the Packers, their collegiate roster finally filling out as key players from the NCAA playoffs joined the team, found their rhythm and began to play like the champions they hope to become again.
On Thursday, June 8, their first league game of the year was played against the Solano Mudcats, last year’s fourth-place finisher in the five-team North Division with their 18-23 record.
The Packers, who finished their 2022 season atop the division with a 37-10 league record, easily trounced the Mudcats, 13-0.
Friday night, the result was little different, though the score was a bit closer. A bit. The Packers dethroned the West Coast Kings, 7-1. But a rematch the next night found the Packers walloping the Kings, 20-0.
In their first day game, on Sunday, June 11, the Packers capped the first week with a 6-4 victory over the Lincoln Potters, also a Collegiate League team, for their second league win so far this year.
Following a break (Monday is an off day all season long in the CCL), the Healdsburg team bussed to Lincoln for a rematch with the Potters, last year’s second-place finisher with a 32-23 league record.
Any concern that the magic of home field advantage would evaporate on the first road game was quickly dispatched. The Pack scored three runs in the second inning and added another in the third, two more in the fifth and three again in the seventh.
Entering the final inning with a 7-0 lead, the Packers added an unnecessary insurance run in the final inning to walk away with the 8-0 win.
After one week, the Packers are 7-0, 3-0 in league play. It’s inevitable that they will lose at some point—this is baseball, after all, and the way the baseball bounces is that sometimes any team will lose.
Another week of play lies ahead in the eight-week season. In fact, the Prune Packers played their third in the four-game series with the Potters on Wednesday night back in Healdsburg (results too late for press time), with the fourth scheduled for Thursday.
But so far, the Prune Packers goal of a Three-Peat seems well within reach.
Home games are played at Rec Park, with most evening matches starting at 6. Sunday games are played in the afternoon, usually though not always starting at 1pm. Admission is $8 for adults (or two for $15); kids under 12 are free.