The Bakersfield Blaze scored first, and last, and grabbed a 1-0 series lead over the Modesto Nuts with a 5-4 win on Saturday at Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield.
In the opener of the second round of the California League playoffs, the Blaze jumped in front early, setting a nice tone for the evening. After Blaze starter Josh Smith set the Nuts down in order in the first, Devin Lohman smacked a solo homer in the bottom half to put the Blaze ahead 1-0 right out of the gate.
One inning later, the Blaze capitalized on some Modesto gaffes to add two more. A leadoff single and an errant pickoff throw allowed Ryan Wright to move into scoring position, and after a grounder advanced Wright to third, Chris Berset brought his teammate home with a base hit to right. A stolen bag, a passed ball and a wild pitch brought Berset all the way around, and suddenly the Blaze led, 3-0.
The Nuts were not going to go away, against all hopes by the big crowd on hand. In the visiting half of the 3rd, Modesto collected a run on three consecutive two-out singles. The Blaze got that run right back, however, when Travis Mattair smacked a towering flyball over the wall in dead center to put the Blaze back on top, 4-1.
At that point, the momentum shifted. In the Modesto 5th, with a runner at first, Rafael Ortega worked an eleven pitch at-bat before tripling into the rightfield corner, then scoring on the same play when the throw to third rolled into the Modesto dugout, and on one huge at-bat, the game got interesting, the Blaze lead trimmed to 4-3.
Just ten minutes later, in the 6th, Jayson Langfels finished the Modesto comeback, smacking a solo opposite field shot to right, locking things up at 4 runs apiece.
After a scoreless bottom half of the 6th, Daniel Wolford (W, 1-0) was called upon to continue his stellar work against the Nuts, and Wolford delivered. Wolford set the Nuts down in order in the 7th, setting the stage for the final Blaze rally in the bottom half.
Chad Rose (L, 0-1), in his second inning of relief, walked the Blaze leadoff man, Josef Terry, and a Berset bunt advanced Terry into scoring position. Then, in the game's biggest moment, Theo Bowe smashed a double to leftcenter, scoring Terry, and putting the Blaze on top for the last time, 5-4.
Wolford got two more outs in the 8th before giving way to closer Carlos Contreras (S, 1), who finished the 8th, then worked around a leadoff walk in the 9th to collect his first save of the postseason.
The win moves the Blaze to 1-0 in the postseason, grabbing the early lead in this Best-of-Five Division Championship series with Modesto.
The series continues Sunday afternoon at 1:15pm at home, with the first 300 fans in attendance receiving a Blaze cooling towel to keep a nice internal temperature on a warm afternoon. Tim Crabbe will take the ball for Bakersfield, and opposing Crabbe is Modesto's fifth starter, Juan Gonzalez. Seats still remain!
Can't make it? Listen ONLINE at BakersfieldBlaze.com as Dan Besbris brings the call from start to finish -- pregame show will begin ten minutes prior to first pitch.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.