San Bernardino, CA. - Rayder Ascanio's blast and a bent but unbroken bullpen secured a 7-6 victory for the Modesto Nuts over the Inland Empire 66ers on Friday night at San Manuel Stadium to bring the Nuts' magic number to one with two games to play in the first half.
With the Ports' loss, the Nuts (37-31) need just one win or one Ports' loss in the final two days of the first half to wrap up a First Half North Division title.
After the 66ers (30-38) scored five unanswered runs to wipe out an early Nuts lead, the Nuts came back with six runs in the sixth to take the lead for good.
Down by four, the game-clinching rally started when Joey Curletta walked with one out in the sixth. Gianfranco Wawoe drove him in with a RBI triple off the top of the left field wall. Willie Argo brought Wawoe home on a RBI groundout before the 66ers starter Jose Rodriguez was taken out of the game. Garrett Nuss (L, 2-2) entered with a runner on first and walked Arturo Nieto. Jordan Cowan brought the Nuts to within a run by lining a RBI single into center. Rayder Ascanio followed and whacked the go-ahead three-run homer to turn a four-run deficit into a two-run lead.
That was the last time the Nuts scored as the 66ers' stressed the Nuts' bullpen. After a sac fly in the seventh made it a one-run game, the 66ers stranded the tying run in scoring position in each of the final three frames.
Matt Festa (S, 2/2) on the day he was added to the all-star game, recorded the final four outs but had to work around a ninth-inning double. Festa struck out three and walked one.
Art Warren (W, 2-1) followed Nuts' starter Reggie McClain out of the bullpen in the fifth inning. Warren induced a double play to end a fifth-inning threat. Warren worked 1 2/3 allowing just one hit and stranding two inherited runners.
The Nuts continue a four-game series with the Inland Empire 66ers Saturday night at 6:05 p.m. Coverage on ModestoNuts.com will start at 5:55 p.m. Listen live online on your phone, tablet or PC by CLICKING HERE.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.