The Bakersfield Blaze put a bold exclamation point on a remarkable first half on Saturday night, twisting the Modesto Nuts for a 7-4 win and going a robust 45-25 in the season's initial 70 games.
The finale of the four-game series was a see-saw affair, with Daniel Wright (W, 3-0) getting out to a quick start. The Blaze hurler, working on a streak that had seen him allow just one run over his previous 15 innings, retired the first six Nuts batters of the game.
Meanwhile, the Blaze jumped out with three in the 1st. Juan Silva doubled - one of three hits on the night - to begin the frame, and Ryan Wright singled him home two batters later. After Marquez Smith walked and Seth Mejias-Brean singled to load the bases, David Vidal doubled in two.
Blaze pitching was solid on the night, as a whole, but Wright experienced a blip in the 3rd. Three straight Nuts reached base to begin the frame, loading the bases with nobody out. Two groundouts brought in two runs, and Jordan Ribera capped the rally with a two-run homer, giving Modesto a short-lived 4-3 lead.
The Blaze took the lead for good in the 4th. Beau Amaral singled to begin the frame, stole second, and scored on a Brent Peterson double to tie the game at 4. Silva walked and stole a bag, putting runners at second and third, and Zach Vincej played the hero, banging a base hit to center to score two.
The 6-4 advantage would prove to be more than enough, though the Blaze would ultimately add an unearned run in the 8th when Amaral walked, went to second on an error and later scored on a Silva base hit.
The Blaze bullpen deserves a load of credit, as well. After blowing a lead on Friday, the pen was rock solid, with James Allen, Jimmy Moran and Carlos Gonzalez (S, 15) each taking care of a scoreless frame and locking up the 7-4 win.
The Blaze end the first half with the league's best record at 45-25, a game ahead of Lancaster in the South, and eight games up on anyone in the North. The Bakersfield Blaze are the First Half Northern Division Champs, and have already locked up a playoff berth at the half way mark.
The team now looks toward the All Star Break, which runs Sunday through Wednesday of the upcoming week. The Blaze resume play on Thursday at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, with pitching matchups to be determined, and start time scheduled for 7:10pm. The broadcast will be available on internet only, as Dan Besbris brings the call five minutes before first pitch.
Fans of the Blaze can also check out the three Blaze All Stars in the annual California/Carolina League All Star Game in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday, June 17th. Ben Lively, Jesse Winker and Kyle Waldrop represent Bakersfield in the contest, which can be followed on MiLB.com for play by play audio and gamecast content.