STOCKTON, Calif. - The Stockton Ports struggled to find offense for much of the game on Wednesday night at Banner Island Ballpark. Stockton mustered just two hits over the final five innings in a 5-3 loss to the Inland Empire 66ers, setting up a rubber match of their three-game series on Thursday.
Inland Empire loaded the bases on a single and back-to-back walks with one out in the first facing Ports starter A.J. Puk. Taylor Ward provided a sac-fly to right that gave the 66ers a 1-0 lead.
Stockton tied the game in the second as Tyler Ramirez singled to open the frame and, two batters later, scored on an RBI double to right by Sean Murphy.
The 66ers snatched the lead back in the top of the fourth on three straight two-out singles by Jordan Serena, Brendan Sanger and Jose Rojas, with Rojas' driving in Serena to make it a 2-1 contest. It was the final run allowed by Puk who did not factor into the decision, going four innings and allowing two runs on five hits while walking a season-high three and striking out five.
The Ports grabbed their first and only lead in the bottom of the fourth facing 66ers starter Jesus Castillo. With the bases loaded and two out, Josh Vidales grounded a single into right-center field to score two runs and vault the Ports ahead 3-2. Following the Vidales single, 66ers pitching combined to retire 12 consecutive batters to take them two outs deep into the eighth.
Castillo was rendered a no-decision, going four innings and allowing three runs on six hits while walking two and striking out three.
Will Gilbert (0-1) took over for the Ports in the fifth and would find himself in a bases-loaded, one-out jam. Gilbert would get Connor Justis to hit a potential inning-ending double-play ball to short, but the ball was booted by Eli White and a run crossed home plate to tie the game at 3-3. Serena added an infield single later in the inning to put Inland Empire in front 4-3.
Gilbert would suffer the loss after allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits over two innings.
Andrew Tomasovich would face one batter in the seventh and leave due to injury after throwing just three pitches. Tomasovich allowed a hit to Michael Barash, who scored later in the inning on an RBI groundout by Cody Ramer off Ports reliever Nolan Blackwood to give the 66ers an insurance run and make it a 5-3 contest. Blackwood would go on to pitch 2.2 scoreless frames.
Garrett Nuss (1-0) would retire all nine batters he faced over three perfect innings in relief of Castillo and go on to earn the win. Sam Holland (SV, 5) worked two scoreless innings down the stretch to earn his fifth save of the year for the 66ers.
Stockton and Inland Empire play the rubber match of their three-game series on Thursday morning at Banner Island Ballpark. Angel Duno (3-1, 7.36 ERA) makes the start for the Ports, opposed by 66ers right-hander Austin Robichaux (1-1, 5.23 ERA). First pitch is set for 11:10 a.m. PDT.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.