MODESTO, Calif. - The Stockton Ports are the best home run hitting team in the California League, even when playing in the league's toughest home run ballpark. The Boys of Banner Island hit three big fly's on Thursday night that accounted for seven of their nine runs as they defeated the Modesto Nuts by a final of 9-6.
Modesto claimed an early 1-0 lead as Jared Simon hit a two-out RBI single off Ports starter James Simmons (7-3) in the bottom of the first. Stockton, though, would go on to score the next eight runs of the game. Phil Pohl led off the top of the third and reached on a two-base throwing error committed by third baseman Niko Gallego. With Pohl at second and nobody out, Myrio Richard singled to left to tie the game at 1-1. Two batters later, Max Muncy reached on a fielder's choice, Josh Whitaker walked and B.A. Vollmuth hit a three-run homer to left-center that put the Ports in front 4-1. All four runs that scored in the frame were unearned for Nuts starter Eddie Butler (3-3).
Stockton added to its lead in the fourth. With two on and two out, Muncy hit his league-leading 21st home run of the season out to right field that made it a 7-1 game and chased Butler from the contest. Geoff Parker came on in relief and gave up a home run to Whitaker to start his outing, putting the Ports lead at 8-1.
Butler suffered the loss and his worst outing of the season, going 3.2 innings and allowing seven runs (three earned) on six hits while striking out four. The home run by Whitaker was the only hit allowed by Parker in three innings of relief.
The Nuts plated three runs in the fourth inning and were aided by Stockton's lone error of the night. With two on and two out, Harold Riggins hit a fly ball to deep center. Richard tracked it as he drifted back, reached up to make the catch and had the ball pop out of his glove, allowing both runners to score. Riggins scored on an ensuing RBI single by Gallego that cut the Ports lead to 8-4.
Trevor Story drew a walk to lead off the fifth inning, and Simmons allowed a two-run homer to Brian Humphries that made it an 8-6 game. Simmons would go on to retire the next three batters to finish his outing, and it started a stretch where Ports pitching set down 14 of the final 15 Modesto batters to end the contest. Humphries' home run was Modesto's final hit of the night.
Simmons received the win, going five innings and allowing six runs (three earned) on six hits while striking out six.
Seth Frankoff followed Simmons with two scoreless innings of relief. Tucker Healy set the side down in order in the eighth with back-to-back strikeouts to end the frame, and Ryan Dull (SV, 3) earned the save by setting the side down in order in the ninth with back-to-back strikeouts to finish the ballgame.
Stockton added a late run in the ninth on a two-out RBI double by Tony Thompson off Nuts reliever Nelson Gonzalez to extend the Ports lead to 9-6.
The Ports and Nuts play the rubber match of their three-game series on Friday night at John Thurman Field. Tanner Peters (7-5, 4.67 ERA) makes the start for Stockton, opposed by Modesto right-hander Tyler Gagnon (7-7, 6.09 ERA). First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. PDT.