Saints lose hard-fought rematch with Crawdads

PASADENA, CA- The Arroyo Seco Saints’ (3-1) hot start to the season was brought to a momentary halt Thursday night as they suffered their first loss of the season against the Walnut Creek Crawdads (3-3).  

At the start, it felt like a familiar beginning for the Saints as this marked the third straight game where their opponent got on the board in the first inning. Walnut Creek jumped on starter Michael Nunez (Loyola Marymount) for two runs, then shut down the Saints in order and it was 2-0 after one.  

Nunez settled in for a scoreless second inning despite a Crawdad triple, and the Saints exhibited their trademark plate discipline in the bottom of the second. After a two out single by Ray Bermudez, four straight Saints reached base via either a walk or hit-by-pitch and the Saints scored twice to tie the game 2-2.  

The Crawdads didn’t take kindly to losing the lead and came back with two more runs in the top of the third to gain a 4-2 advantage. In the bottom of the inning, Josh Livingston (Wichita State) singled and Bermudez hit his second single of the night, but both were stranded on base, and the score remained 4-2.  

Brady Nelson (St. Cloud) came on for the Saints in the fourth and held the Saints scoreless, thanks in large part to a nice double play turned by Adrian Lopez (Portal) at shortstop.  

In the bottom of the fourth, Joey Donnelly (UC Berkeley) came on to pinch hit and worked a walk. Head up baserunning from Donnelly ultimately got the Saints another run without needing a hit to do it, as the speedster took second on a passed ball, third on a stolen base, and home on another passed ball. After 4, the score sat at 4-3 and the Saints were within 1. 

The fifth inning came and went without any movement on the scoreboard. Nelson exited with a scoreless two-inning outing under his belt.  

In the top of the sixth, the Saints brought in Ahmad Harajli (Miami University) for his first outing of the season. A bit of poor luck led to Harajli surrendering an unearned run, but he struck out two batters to finish the inning and limit the damage.  

The Saints’ bats came alive in the bottom of the sixth. Another walk to Donnelly and singles by Easton Elliot (Portal) and Crew McChesney (Brigham Young) loaded up the bases for Cam Conley (Pepperdine), who crushed a two-run double down the line to knot the game up at 5-5.  

Saints’ Manager Aaron Milam has seen a lot of fight from the Saints early in the season.  

“I think this is a pretty blue-collar team,” Milam said. “And that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”  

In the top of the seventh, the Crawdads threatened to regain the lead, putting runners on second and third with nobody out. But Giovanni Sambito (Air Force) put together one of the most clutch innings of the Saints’ young season, striking out three straight Crawdads to keep the game tied.  

Sambito said his performance had a lot to do with how Air Force has shaped him as a person.  

“I’m at the Air Force academy and everything we do in day-to-day life is pretty stressful,” Sambito said. “That’s the whole point of it, to get us trained to lead our country’s air force and all personnel inside of it so I really think I dug into the grit I’ve developed there in my first year.”  

Saints’ Manager Aaron Milam seemed to concur that Air Force has made Sambito exceptional.  

“He’s in the military, God is with him,” Milam said. “He has a better shot than any of us.”  

The Saints threatened in the bottom of the seventh but did not score.  

It was the Sambito show for Arroyo Seco again in the top of the eighth. The star reliever overcame a Crawdad baserunner who reached on an error, cashing in two more strikeouts and fielding a comebacker cleanly to keep the Crawdads off the board again.  

Overall, on the day, Sambito finished with two innings pitched and gave up no runs on one hit and struck out five Crawdads.  

He got so many Crawdads to strike out due to the effectiveness of his off-speed arsenal.  

“I threw a lot of sliders,” Sambito said. “I had good feel for it, I was pounding it in the zone for strikes, and most of all they just weren’t hitting it. So it just goes back to, whatever works, throw it.”  

But again, the Saints couldn’t get a run across to regain the lead and the highly-contested game went into the ninth inning still scoreless.  

In the ninth, the Crawdads loaded the bases with one out. A ground ball on the infield made it look for a moment like the Saints could get out of the inning unscathed, but an errant throw allowed two Crawdad runners to come home breaking the tie and giving Walnut Creek a 7-5 lead. They’d add another run on an infield single.  

Those three runs would sink the Saints, as they went down quietly in the ninth inning to suffer their first loss of the season, 8-5.  

Despite the loss, the Saints were encouraged by the clutch moments from players like Conley and Sambito.  

They will look to build on those moments and clean up on some of their errors in their next outing Friday night.  

They will be back at Jackie Robinson Field at 6:05 on Friday Night against the OC Riptide. Danny Veloz (Hawaii) will take the mound for his second start of the season for the Saints and second consecutive start against the Riptide.  

The game will be streamed live on the Arroyo Seco Saints’ YouTube Channel! 


  • Saints reporter Ethan Inman (USC)
  • Saints photographer Armando Jacobo (Long Beach)





Aaron Milam | (626) 695-6903 |
Nick Gorman | (805) 252-7954 |

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