ADELANTO, Calif. - The Stockton Ports have made a habit of using the home run ball to win games this season, and Wednesday night proved to be no exception. Josh Whitaker hit a fifth inning grand slam that ended up being the difference maker as the Ports defeated the High Desert Mavericks 6-4 to earn their third straight victory.
For the second straight night, the Ports plated a pair of runs in the first inning. Bobby Crocker reached on an infield single to open the ballgame. After Mavericks starter Jordan Pries (6-6) recorded back-to-back strikeouts, B.A. Vollmuth singled to center to score Crocker and put the Ports on the board. Two batters later, Dusty Robinson lined a double to left to score Vollmuth and make it a 2-0 lead.
Ports starter Josh Bowman (4-4) gave up back-to-back singles to start the second inning. With runners at first and second and two out, Steve Baron singled to right to score Pat Kivlehan. When Whitaker's throw to the infield missed the cutoff man, Steven Proscia tried to score from third and was thrown out at the pate by catcher Phil Pohl, who threw to Bowman covering the plate as he applied the tag.
Anthony Phillips doubled to lead off the third and scored two batters later on an RBI single by Nate Melendres to make it a 2-2 ballgame.
Pries gave up back-to-back singles to Pohl and Crocker to start the fifth and then walked Addison Russell to load the bases. Whitaker came to the plate and hit the first pitch out to right field, a grand slam that gave the Ports a 6-2 lead.
Pries suffered the loss, going five innings and allowing six runs on six hits while striking out seven.
Bowman had retired seven-in-a-row taking him two outs deep into the sixth inning. With the bases empty and two away, Proscia hit a home run to left that made it a 6-3 game. It was the final run allowed by Bowman as he finished the sixth inning and earned the win, allowing three runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out five.
After Trey Barham pitched a perfect seventh inning in his return from Tommy John surgery, Seth Frankoff came on to pitch the eighth and gave up a one-out solo homer to Kevin Rivers, Rivers' second in as many nights, to bring the score to 6-4. Frankoff went on to strike out the side in the inning and strand a base runner.
Tucker Healy (SV, 3) came on to pitch the ninth and, after striking out Jabari Henry, gave up a single to Baron to bring the possible-tying run to the plate. After Phillips struck out, Jamal Austin singled to put the possible-tying run aboard. With two on and two out, Healy got Melendres to hit a comebacker to the mound to end the game.
High Desert's bullpen, a combination of Andrew Kittredge and Mayckol Guaipe, combined to one-hit the Ports over the last four innings.
The Ports will try for a three-game sweep of the Mavericks as the series wraps up on Thursday night. Michael Ynoa (1-2, 9.60 ERA) will take the mound for Stockton, looking to build on his first California League win. He'll be opposed by High Desert right-hander Stephen Landazuri (4-4, 4.80 ERA). First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. PDT.