The Visalia Oaks advanced to the second round of the California League Playoffs with an 8-4 win over the Stockton Ports Friday at Recreation Park. After losing game one of the best-of-three series, the Oaks bounced back to take games two and three. Visalia will play the San Jose Giants in a best-of-five game series for the California League North Division Championship beginning Saturday. The winner of that series will play the South Division Champion for the 2006 California League Title.
The Oaks trailed 4-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning when Visalia's offense exploded for six runs to take an 8-4 lead. Chris Nowak, drew a walk to start the rally. The next batter, John Jaso, doubled down the left field line to drive in Nowak and bring the Oaks within a run. Josh Arhart singled and with one out Josh Asanovich stepped up with a chance to tie the game. Asanovich singled through the right side of the infield to plate Jaso and even the score at 4-4. After Pat Cottrell hit into a fielder's choice to force Asanovich out at second for out number two, Mark Schleicher came to the plate with two outs and runners at the corners and the game still tied. Schleicher untied it with a ringing double into the rightcenter field gap over the head of rightfielder Luis Perez bringing home Arhart and Cottrell to give the Oaks their first lead of the game at 6-4. Fernando Perez then reached on an infield single and Schleicher scored on a throwing error by the second baseman Eddie Cornejo to give the Oaks a 7-4 cushion. Shaun Cumberland completed the scoring by smoking a single up the middle to bring home Perez and give Visalia an 8-4 lead. Arhart finished the night 3-4 with a homerun. Asanovich and Schleicher had two RBI apiece.
The Oaks got good outings from their three pitchers tonight. Starter Derek Feldkamp went five innings allowing 4 runs on 6 hits. Reliever Even Meek entered the game in the sixth inning and threw three perfect innings to earn the win. Nick Debarr came in and shut the door with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to secure Visalia's win.
The Ports took an early lead with a run in the top of the second inning. Myron Leslie led off the inning with a double off the wall in left-center field. After advancing to third on a groundout by John McCurdy he scored on a sacrifice fly from Tommy Everidge to give Stockton a 1-0 lead.
Visalia tied the score with a run in the home half of the fourth. Nowak was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Then with two outs, Sergio Pedroza walked to put runners on first and second. Asanovich singled on a ground ball that deflected off the pitchers glove, then off the second baseman's glove and into shallow center field for an RBI single to bring home Nowak.
Stockton answered with three runs in the top of the fifth. The big blow came when Eddie Cornejo ripped a double into left-center field to drive home two runs. Cornejo finished the night 2-4 with a double, one run and two RBI.
The Oaks travel to San Jose for game one of the best-of-five series Saturday. First pitch is at 1 PM. Game two is Sunday in San Jose at 5 PM, with game three back in Visalia Monday at 6:35 PM. If necessary, game four will be Tuesday at Recreation Park at 6:35 PM and game five is scheduled for 7:05 PM Wednesday in San Jose.
WP: Evan Meek (1-0) LP: Jeffrey Gray (0-1)
Time: 2:11 Att: 522
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.