VISALIA, Calif. -
Craig Italiano might slowly be starting to distinguish himself as the ace of the Stockton Ports pitching staff. On Thursday night in Visalia, the right-hander recorded a season-high eight strikeouts and allowed just three hits in six innings, helping the Ports snap a four-game losing skid and lifting them to a 4-2 win over the Visalia Rawhide.
Stockton was able to get on the board first against Rawhide starter Wes Roemer (3-1). The Ports opened the second inning with back-to-back singles from Matt Spencer and Raul Padron, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. Jermaine Mitchell came up next and hit a bouncer to second. Visalia was able to get the force at second, but Mitchell legged it out to beat the double play, scoring Spencer and giving the Ports a 1-0 lead.
The lead would be short-lived as Visalia scratched a run across in the third. With Ollie Linton at first and one out, he stole second. Padron's throw down to second bounced in the dirt and into center field, allowing Linton to take third on the error. Though Italiano would get back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning, he would uncork a wild pitch in the process, allowing Linton to score from third and knotting the game at one.
The run in the third was the only run allowed by Italiano in six-plus innings of work. He would go on to earn his third straight win, allowing just the unearned run on three hits while racking up a season-high eight strikeouts.
The Ports would break the tie in the fifth. Roemer would load the bases on walks with one out in the inning. Shane Keough came up at hit a deep fly ball to center, scoring Alex Valdez on a sac-fly and giving Stockton a 2-1 lead. Todd Johnson followed with a double down the right field line. Michael Richard scored on the play, and David Thomas was waved home by Aaron Nieckula. Thomas collided with Rawhide catcher Sean Coughlin, but Coughlin was able to hang on to the baseball for the final out of the inning. The assist came from Visalia right-fielder Collin Cowgill.
Those runs were the last allowed by Roemer. Visalia's starter would take the loss on the night, going six innings and allowing three runs on six hits while walking three and striking out four.
Leading 3-1, the Ports would plate an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Rawhide reliever Tom Layne walked Richard with one out, then yielded a single to Thomas to put runners at first and second. Keough followed with his second RBI of the night on a single to center, scoring Richard and giving the Ports a 4-1 lead.
Visalia would get another run across in the bottom of the eighth. With Justin Friend on the hill, Linton led the inning off by getting hit by a pitch. Linton would go to second on a wild pitch. With one out, Cowgill stepped to the plate and hit a slow bouncer up the third base line. Valdez fielded the ball with his bare hand, but overthrew first, allowing Linton to score on the error and cutting the Ports lead to 4-2. With the potential tying run at the plate, Jon Hunton (SV, 4) came into the ballgame and induced an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Ryne White.
Hunton pitched the ninth, and though he got into a bit of a jam, he managed to find his way out of it. With the potential-tying runs aboard and the potential-winning run at the plate, Hunton got Manny Ferrer to pop to second to end the ballgame. Hunton now has four saves in as many chances.
Having ended their four-game losing skid, the Ports return home for three games over the weekend to host the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. On Friday, Scott Hodsdon (1-3, 6.26 ERA) will head to the mound for the Ports, opposed by left-hander Robert Fish (1-3, 6.83 ERA) for the Quakes. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. PDT at Banner Island Ballpark.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.