STOCKTON, Calif. - The Stockton Ports and Inland Empire 66ers played home run derby on Thursday afternoon at Banner Island Ballpark. The teams combined for six home runs, but at day's end it was the Boys of Banner Island that came out with an 8-7 victory in the rubber match of a three-game series before a sellout crowd of 5,604.
Each team scored its first run in the second inning. Inland Empire put runners at the corners with one out in the top half and Ports starter Angel Duno made an errant pick-off throw to first, allowing Connor Justus to score and give the 66ers a 1-0 lead.
Stockton countered in the bottom of the second as they loaded the bases with nobody out. 66ers starter Austin Robichaux would get Santiago Chavez to hit into a 5-4-3 double-play on which a run scored to tie the game at 1-1.
The 66ers were quick to take the lead back in the third when, with one on and one out, Matt Thaiss hit a two-run homer to left to give Inland Empire a 3-1 lead. The lead grew by a run in the fourth as Cody Ramer doubled to open the frame and scored two batters later on a sac-fly by Brendon Sanger to make it 4-1.
The fourth inning run was the final tally allowed by Duno, who went deeper into the ballgame than any Ports starter has all season. He went six innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits while striking out a season-high seven. He retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced.
Stockton got two runs back in the bottom of the fifth. With runners at second and third and two outs, Mikey White singled to left to score Brandon Cogswell and Eli White and bring the Ports to within a run at 4-3. Those were the final runs scored off Robichaux, who went five innings and allowed three runs on four hits while walking four and striking out two.
The Ports grabbed the lead in the bottom of the sixth facing 66ers reliever Jon Fitzsimmons. With one on and two out, Skye Bolt hit a two-run homer to left that vaulted the Ports in front 5-4. Those were the only runs allowed by Fitzsimmons in his lone inning of work.
Inland Empire grabbed the lead back in the seventh with a long ball of its own. Troy Montgomery hit a two-run homer off Matt Sergey to put the 66ers in front 6-5. Those were the only runs allowed by Sergey who left two batters later due to a neck strain.
The Ports would take the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh. 66ers reliever Jeremy Rhoades (3-3) walked Mikey White with one out and then gave up a two-run homer to left to Tyler Ramirez that gave the Ports a 7-6 advantage. Two batters later, Chris Iriart hit his eighth homer of the season to make it 8-6. Rhoades would suffer the loss after allowing three runs on those two hits over two innings of work.
Carlos Navas (3-0), who took over for Sergey in the seventh, would face 10 batters and retire eight of them, seven by way of the strikeout. Navas gave up a leadoff homer to Sanger in the ninth, but proceeded to record back-to-back strikeouts and got Thaiss to pop to second to end the ballgame. Navas pitched the final two-and-two-thirds innings in earning the victory for Stockton.
After taking two of three from the 66ers, the Ports begin a four-game set with the Lake Elsinore Storm on Friday night at Banner Island Ballpark. Casey Meisner (2-5, 6.10 ERA) makes the start in the series opener for Stockton, opposed by Lake Elsinore Adrian De Horta (0-0, 0.00 ERA), who makes his California League debut. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. PDT.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.