With Oakland’s second ranked prospect AJ Puk cruising on the mound and the Rawhide trailing 3-2, Gregor Blanco led off the eighth inning by working the count full and slapping a single the other way. Puk also went full to Jason Morozowski before the right fielder doubled down the right field line to score Blanco and tie the game. Puk walked Marty Herum on five pitches, and forced Stockton Manager Rick Magnante’s hand, and he called for late-innings reliever Carlos Navas. Navas came in and walked Byler on six pitches to load the bases with nobody out, presenting a golden opportunity for Visalia to take the lead.
But Henry Castillo and Frank Christy both struck out on 3-2 fastballs to leave it up to Daniel Lockhart. Lockhart fell behind with two strikes and, after fouling off a tough pitch, broke his bat on a flare to short center field. Ports second baseman Brenden Coggswell ranged back and lunged for the ball, but it flew by his glove by inches, giving Lockhart a two-run single and the Rawhide a 5-3 lead.
Bud Jeter pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out two in the frame, to lock down the game and tally his league-leading seventh save on the season.
The game was a bullpen duel until the eighth, with neither starter factoring in the decision. Nick Baker went four innings and gave up two runs with three strikeouts for Visalia (14-11), and Boomer Biegalski lasted just two and two thirds for Stockton (13-12), giving up two runs with five strikeouts. Biegalski was lifted in the third inning after giving up solo homers to both Lockhart and Sergio Alcantara, which gave the Rawhide their first lead of the ballgame, 2-1. Lockhart finished the game with three hits in four trips, going a triple shy of the cycle.
Stockton would battle back in the fourth and fifth, scoring one run off of Baker and another off of Cameron Gann on RBI singles from Santiago Chavez and Seth Brown respectively to put the Ports on top 3-2. Puk (L, 0-3) came on to start the fifth inning and held the lead until the eighth, easily pitching through the seventh while allowing only one hit and walking one batter.
Twice tonight the Ports had the bases loaded and came up empty. In shades of the ninth inning of Friday’s game in Modesto, Baker walked the bases loaded to start the second inning. But he struck out Coggswell and induced a 1-2-3 double play from Eli White to get out unscathed. Cody Clark (W, 1-0) also loaded the bases in the eighth, with two outs this time, by walking Josh Vidales, but escaped the jam by striking out Brett Siddal.
This was just the first game that the Rawhide have won at home while trailing after the seventh inning, and was also the first time that Stockton had lost a game in which they scored first. Visalia now owns sole possession of second place in the Cal League, still a game behind Modesto after the Nuts defeated San Jose in San Jose.
The Rawhide will continue the homestand tomorrow evening. First pitch will be at 6:00 PM. It will be a Two-fer-Tuesday at the ballpark. Fans can pick up a two-for-one voucher at a participating Chevron or Texaco station and turn them in at the Rawhide Box Office for two-for-one ticket prices to any Tuesday game. Tickets are still available at rawhidebaseball.com.