It was another winning week of Humboldt Crabs baseball but the team had to fight through some adversity to make that happen as multiple players and coaches were taken out of action with COVID-19 in the middle of the week. Despite personnel losses, the Crabs only dropped one game as team members made their way back into the dugout and showed resilience even without many of their position players being available.
The week began with a two game series against the Redding Tigers that saw the Crabs open with a 5-2 victory behind starting pitcher Marcelo Saldana. Saldana has been one of the most reliable arms for the Crabs this summer, throwing for five strikeouts in six innings of work while allowing only three hits on Tuesday evening. Saldana also sits second on the team in innings pitched with 29.2 as well as second in wins with four and a 2.73 ERA following the weekend.
For Saldana, it’s been an enjoyable summer playing for the Crabs, pointing to the positive energy among the team and the support from the local fans.
“It’s honestly great to be out here,” Saldana said after Sunday’s game. “I love the energy that all the fans have. All the players coming together. As soon as we got here, we were a family. Once a Crab, always a Crab. It’s amazing to be out here and I feel like it just brings a good vibe. Easy, loose on the mound, throwing strikes, letting my defense work.”
The Crabs lost both their next game against the Tigers and their 11-game winning streak on Wednesday after falling behind early in the second inning and then were unable to get the offense firing as effectively as they have previously in the season.
Making things even more difficult for the second game against the Tigers were the team members missing from the Crabs' dugout, including Manager Robin Guiver who was not able to return to action until Sunday after testing positive. Aside from the players who took to the field Wednesday evening, only Javier Felix was available on the bench while Jordan Petrushka was also at the ballpark but resting a minor injury and so assumed first base coach duties for the night.
After working through some adversity, Guiver was pleased with how the team played and how the other coaches handled the situation and said that he kept up with games even while away from the field by watching the broadcasts that the team livestreams.
“We had four players that missed a significant amount of time,” Guiver said following Sunday’s game. “We had two coaches, two trainers, some ballpark staff and some board members [out with COVID], so we definitely were a little bit of a skeleton crew for some of those games and we did a really good job the last five days. I’ve been watching them on TV and I liked what I saw. I think Coach [Eric] Giacone and Coach [John] Bryant stepped up really well. Their positions changed a little bit and I’m happy with the way the guys played and glad to be back out here.”
For Saldana, the way the Crabs played while down on players was an example of how well the team has played all season.
“It just describes the Crabs as a whole,” Saldana said. “We have guys on the bench that can do the same thing as the guys that are out on the field, we’re a talented group. We were short this weekend a little bit with guys but we still managed to get the job done and figure it out.”
By Friday the Crabs were a much more complete team once again to start their series against the West Coast Kings. That proved valuable in the first game against the Kings in which the Crabs scored early, tallying runs in the second, third and fourth innings to lead 3-0 up until the eighth inning where a costly error allowed the Kings to score three runs of their own. It would take extra innings to settle the game after it got tied up, with the Crabs taking advantage of two timely walks to Aaron Perez and then Cameron Saso, which gave Cary Arbolida a runner in scoring position to walk off the game with a clutch single giving the Crabs their first extra innings win of the season.
Saturday’s game went more smoothly for the Crabs as they racked up eight runs and the pitching staff threw a strong game to lock the Kings out and take the win 8-0. Nick Perryman took the start for the Crabs and worked though four innings while dealing with pressure on the basepaths before handing the ball over to Andrew LaCour, Hayden Bode and Saso, who each allowed only one hit. Tyler Davis led the way for the offense, putting up three RBIs, including a home run in the bottom of the first inning that shot over the right field fence. Arbolida also featured in the game through his defense making a play in shallow right field before making a perfect throw over to first base for a double play on the Kings baserunner who couldn’t scramble back in time.
Sunday was a rare treat for fans in attendance as they had the opportunity to see a 100 pitch complete game shutout thrown by Eureka local Caleb Ruiz who was absolutely dominant on the mound. The Crabs struck early in the bottom of the first inning as Davis once again got things rolling with a two RBI single. That would prove to be all the offense that Ruiz and the Crabs needed as Ruiz worked out after out, looking loose but composed on the bump. Ruiz was perfect through four innings of work and only allowed two hits through the entire game while striking out nine Kings batters.
“We went and talked to him after the eighth inning and we had initially kind of talked about making a move and going to Drew Woody,” Guiver said after the game. “And he was just pumping strikes, his pitch count was really good and it just didn’t make sense to [take him out]. If we had one baserunner he was coming out, so it was up to him to keep himself in the game. He just pounded the strike zone, he’s been doing it all summer. He’s been definitely one of our top couple pitchers all summer and continuing to do that today was awesome to see.”
With the sweep of the Kings, the Crabs record on the season moved up to 22-9 but it was a bittersweet end to the week as the Crabs also said goodbye to Cary Arbolida early as the well-liked outfielder is set to enjoy some time at home before reporting to his new college team at University of Houston. Arbolida has enjoyed a successful season with the Crabs, batting .284 while having a .437 on-base percentage and 19 RBIs with three home runs and leading the team with 23 walks.
“It’s been fun, first game started out hot with Caleb on the mound and then last game here Caleb on the mound again with a shutout,” Arbolida said after Sunday’s game. “It’s just been fun. Great team, a lot of wins. A lot of good hitting and pitching this summer.”
As well as the play on the field, Arbolida also talked about how well the team as a whole has come together and been enjoyable to play with.
“It was really easy to gel,” Arbolida said. “We’ve got Javy [Felix], the big guy who gets everyone to gel together. No groups, no rough spots with the team. Everyone is based like a team; you’re at school again. Like you’ve been playing with each other for a long time. It’s just a great group of guys this year.”
Saldana who has gotten to see Arbolida’s work from on the pitchers mound and in the dugout on his off days is sad to see Arbolida go but expressed how happy he was with playing with him this season.
“I love Cary,” Saldana said. “It sucks that he’s leaving. It’s been a pleasure with him but he has to go onto his next bigger things, down to Houston. So that will be exciting for him.”
Guiver knew coming into the season that Arbolida would have to leave the team early and was also complimentary of the star outfielder while discussing his play this season and how he, too, will miss having him for the rest of the schedule.
“That guy hit two home runs opening night and has kind of been a leader for us the rest of the summer,” Guiver said. “He’s got a winning mentality. Plays real hard all the time. Plays a great outfield, has probably the best arm on our team and he’s a middle of the lineup guy. It’s going to be hard to replace him for the last few weeks but we’ve got guys that will step up and do it. We’ll miss having him for sure, but it’s been a pleasure having him as long as we have.”