STOCKTON, Calif. - Entering Saturday night's ballgame, both the Stockton Ports and Modesto Nuts had blown leads to lose one of the first two games of their four-game series at Banner Island Ballpark. Tonight, the Ports nearly saw a four-run lead in the ninth evaporate as the Nuts scored three runs, but ultimately fell short of another comeback as Stockton hung on for an 8-7 win.
After falling behind 1-0 in the top of the second, the Ports used their first hit of the ballgame to plate three runs. After Nuts starter Ben Alsup (3-7) walked two batters in the bottom of the second, Dusty Robinson came to the plate and delivered a three-run homer to left that gave the Ports a 3-1 lead.
The Ports added to their lead in the third as Addison Russell doubled and Max Muncy singled to right to drive him in and make it 4-1.
Stockton starter James Simmons (3-1) kept Modesto out of the run column in the third and fourth innings. In the fifth, however, Simmons yielded three straight hits with two outs, a single to Brian Humphries, an RBI triple to Taylor Featherston and an RBI single to Ryan Casteel that brought the Nuts to within a run at 4-3.
Simmons pitched around an error that started the sixth and completed the sixth inning with the lead intact, going on to earn the win after allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits while striking out six.
The Ports widened their lead in the seventh. With two outs and the bases empty, Muncy singled off Nuts reliever Kraig Sitton to chase him from the game after an inning-and-two-thirds. Nelson Gonzalez came on from the bullpen and gave up an RBI double to Tony Thompson, followed by a two-run homer to Antonio Lamas that brought the Ports lead to 7-3.
Modesto got a run back in the eighth on a leadoff home run by Casteel off Ports reliever Jake Brown to make it a 7-4 game. It was the only run Brown allowed in 1.1 innings of relief.
Seth Frankoff came into the game in the eighth with a runner at first and finished the inning with a groundout and a strikeout of Juan Crousset.
Stockton plated what proved to be a valuable insurance run in the eighth. With the bases loaded and one out, Thompson drove in a run with a sac-fly to left field to make it an 8-4 lead.
Frankoff came out to start the ninth and try to complete the save. Pinch-hitter Jared Simon doubled to left to start the inning and Frankoff walked Kyle Von Tungeln to put two aboard. After Humphries hit into a fielder's choice, Featherston hit a three-run homer to left that brought the Nuts to within a run at 8-7.
Jonathan Joseph (SV, 5) was brought in from the bullpen and was greeted with a fly ball to deep left-center off the bat of Casteel. Myrio Richard, Stockton's center fielder, made a tremendous leaping catch at the wall for the second out. Joseph went on to strike out Tyler Massey to end the ballgame and record his third save of the homestand.
The Ports and Nuts will wrap up their four-game set on Sunday afternoon at Banner Island Ballpark. Left-hander Shaeffer Hall (1-0, 1.64 ERA) takes the mound for Stockton, opposed by Modesto right-hander Eddie Butler (1-1, 3.71 ERA). First pitch is set for 2:09 p.m. PDT.