Hankerd powers Oaks into North Finals

Three-run homer in eighth completes sweep of Nuts

(Ken's Photos)

September 6, 2007 10:55 PM ET

Cyle Hankerd didn't hesitate when he got the pitch he was looking for.

The 22-year-old left fielder turned a 3-1 fastball into a go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth inning as the Visalia Oaks edged the Modesto Nuts, 5-4, on Thursday to complete a two-game sweep of the California League North Division semifinals.

"I was just looking for a fastball and [Nuts starter Alan Johnson] left one middle-in and belt-high and I put a good swing on it,'' said Hankerd, who went 2-for-4 for the second straight game.

The Oaks trailed, 4-2, in the eighth before Bryan Byrne drew a leadoff walk and Frank Curreri ripped a one-out single to set up Hankerd's first postseason homer, a two-out shot over the wall in left-center.

Visalia, which won the opener, 4-0, on Wednesday, can enjoy a day off before traveling to San Jose for Game 1 of the best-of-5 North Division Finals on Saturday.

"This is big," Hankerd said. "Everybody, after a long season, is run down. San Jose has just been waiting for a team to play. It's nice for us to recharge and get ready for a five-game series.''

Oaks starter Matthew Torra (1-0) gave up four runs -- one earned -- on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in eight innings. Barry Enright tossed a perfect ninth for his first playoff save.

"Torra threw a great game. He's been throwing great lately," said Hankerd. "His change was working and he was throwing well with his curve. He was just doing what he's been doing for the last month."

Christopher Nelson cranked a solo homer in the fourth and Eric Young Jr. went 3-for-4 with a three-run dinger in the fifth for the Nuts.

Johnson (0-1) went the distance for Modesto, surrendering five runs on 10 hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. He served up a solo homer to Derek Bruce in the opening frame.

Tim Leonard is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More