Heading into the top of the eighth inning, Visalia was staring down a 2-1 deficit and a strong back-end of the Modesto bullpen that had shut the Rawhide down last weekend at Rawhide Ballpark. Gregor Blanco led off the inning by slapping a double the opposite way into left-center field and was promptly scored by a Jason Morozowski double to tie the game up 2-2. Marty Herum drew a walk to chase lefty reliever Joe Pistorese, and then a game that had seen its fair share of odd moments got even weirder.
Matt Jones attempted to sacrifice bunt off of new reliever Lukas Shiraldi, but Shiraldi threw the ball to first on one hop and Jordan Cowan couldn’t pick it out of the dirt after racing over to cover the bag from second. Everybody was safe, the bases were loaded for the Rawhide with nobody out, and Visalia had just caught a huge break. But Daniel Lockhart smacked a line drive that Shiraldi used all of his six-foot-six inch frame to knock down. Shiraldi pounced on the ball and threw out Morozowski at home for an all-important first out. Then Henry Castillo struck out looking and the Rawhide were looking at a tie game through eight innings for the second straight night.
Galli Cribbs, whose successful suicide squeeze play scored the winning run for Visalia on Friday night, dunked a blooper into the Bermuda Triangle between third-baseman Joe DeCarlo, shortstop Donnie Walton, and left fielder Logan Taylor. The ball kicked away from the diving DeCarlo and into the Rawhide bullpen, allowing all three runners to score and Cribbs to motor into third with a bases-clearing, go-ahead triple. It gave the Rawhide their first lead of the night, 5-2, and Mason McCullough locked down his first save of the year in the ninth inning despite surrendering a run to give Visalia (13-10) a 5-3 win. The victory also clinched a series win over the same Modesto team that swept the Rawhide at home last weekend.
In his first appearance after making a spot start for Class-AAA Reno last week, Joel Payamps delivered yet another quality outing for the Rawhide, going a season-high seven innings while allowing only two runs on six hits with seven strikeouts. Payamps (3-0) had set down seven straight Modesto hitters between the first and third innings before running into trouble in the fourth. He loaded the bases and saw a run score on a walk and three straight singles, and the bases remained loaded with nobody out. But Payamps induced a double play ball from Walton and then struck out Arturo Nieto to retire the side. The double play brought home a run, Payamps was able to limit the damage on an inning that had big-inning potential written all over it.
Anthony Misiewicz wouldn’t factor into the decision for Modesto (13-10), despite pitching a good ballgame. He lasted 5.1 innings, allowing one run while scattering seven hits and striking out six. The left-hander kept the Rawhide off-balance all night and left with a lead. Pistorese (0-1) was given his first loss of the season, as well as his first blown save of the year.
Visalia and Modesto are now tied for first place in the California League North Standings, with the winner of tomorrow’s game will have sole possession of first. The Rawhide also clinched their fourth consecutive series win on the road, and are now 10-3 away from Rawhide Ballpark. Blanco finished with another multi-hit game, going 2-4 with a double and a run scored. He now has six hits in his three games with Visalia. Right hander Jake Barrett also made a rehab appearance, pitching a scoreless eighth while striking out the side.
The series will conclude tomorrow afternoon in Modesto. First pitch will be at 2:05 PM with RHP Jose Almonte getting the start for Visalia against Modesto’s RHP Reggie McClain and the Rawhide’s live broadcast of the game will be available on rawhidebaseball.com and on the MiLB At Bat app.