MODESTO, CA (August 31st, 2013) -- In front of another sellout crowd on "Fan Appreciation Night" at John Thurman Field, the Nuts defeated Stockton 5-3 to nail down a second-half North Division title.
One night after clinching a spot in the California League playoffs, the Nuts (42-26, 74-64) secured a first place finish in the second-half standings, outlasting San Jose. Modesto earned home-field advantage over the Rawhide in the upcoming Mini-Series, which begins next week. Game one will take place in Visalia next Wednesday, with games two and three (if necessary) being held at John Thurman Field on Thursday and Friday night.
Needed only one win over the final three games of the season, the Nuts wasted no time by jumping ahead in tonight's contest. After consecutive singles by Taylor Featherston and Brian Humphries opened the first, Jared Simon belted a 3-run homer to stake the Nuts to a 3-0 advantage.
After Stockton plated a run against Chris Jensen in the top of the second, Modesto returned fired in the bottom of the inning against Raul Alcantara as Featherston drove in Matt Wessinger.
Consecutive doubles by Trevor Story and Will Swanner in the third put the Nuts on top 5-1. Alcantara (5-5) battled to give Stockton six innings, but was saddled with the loss after allowing five earned runs on nine hits.
Jensen (5-8) got into trouble in the sixth, loading the bases with no outs, but was able to limit the damage to just one run. The Nuts bullpen was able to maneuver out of a few more jams the rest of the night to keep Jensen in line with a win, his first at home this season in 11 starts.
Stockton wouldn't go quietly as Phil Pohl homered in the bottom of the seventh, and the Ports eventually added two men in scoring position with no outs against Ryan Arrowood. But Arrowood was able to battle through the inning unscathed, keeping the Nuts ahead by a pair of runs.
After issuing a lead off walk in the eighth, Arrowood was replaced by Patrick Johnson who had to work out of trouble as well. A single by Rashun Dixon put two on with no outs, but Johnson retired the next three batters in order.
With closer Scott Oberg unavailable after pitching on consecutive nights, Bruce Kern filled in and worked a seamless ninth, sending down the Ports 1-2-3 to earn his second save of the year.
The Nuts have now won three consecutive second-half North Division titles. Last season, Modesto advanced past San Jose (2-1) and Bakersfield (3-2) en route to the California League Championship Series, where they were ultimately swept by Lancaster.
With only two games remaining in the regular season, the Nuts return to host the Ports on Sunday night at John Thurman Field. RHP Tyler Gagnon (12-9, 5.20) will get the start, opposite Stockton RHP Josh Bowman (6-6, 5.69). First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m.
Tonight's victory was also a win for the fans too. All Papa John's online orders on Sunday beginning at 11:00 a.m. will be 30% off with the promo code 'nuts30' at papajohns.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.