VISALIA, Calif. - The Stockton Ports came tantalizingly close to a big win to open their four-game set versus the Visalia Rawhide on Thursday night at Recreation Ballpark. Visalia, though, hit a pair of home runs in the seventh inning including a three-run blast with two outs by Austin Byler that send the Ports to a 7-6 loss and deprived them of a third straight win.
Visalia took advantage of a Stockton error in the bottom of the first and scored three runs off Ports starter James Naile. After Ben Deluzio reached on an error by shortstop Richie Martin and Tyler Baker singled to left, Byler hit a two-run double to right that gave the Rawhide a 2-0 lead. Fernery Ozuna followed with an RBI single to left to make it a 3-0 advantage.
The three first inning runs were the only runs allowed by Naile, who did not factor into the decision after going four innings and allowing four hits while striking out three.
Stockton returned fire in the second inning with four straight hits to open the frame. Sheldon Neuse and Mikey White hit back-to-back doubles to net a run, then Seth Brown singled to drive in White and Skye Bolt hit an RBI triple to right to tie the game at 3-3. Bolt would be at third base with nobody out but the Ports would fail to bring him in, a missed opportunity that proved costly in the end.
The Ports grabbed the lead in the third. With two outs and the bases empty, White hit his second of three doubles on the night and Brown followed with a two-run homer to right that put the Ports in front 5-3.
Rawhide starter Cody Reed would work into the fifth and, with one out, give up a single to Brett Siddall and, two batters later, a third double to White that scored Siddall and made it 6-3. Reed would be rendered a no-decision, going 4.1 innings and allowing six runs on a season-high nine hits while striking out four.
Miguel Romero came on to start the fifth for Stockton and would retire seven of the first eight batters he faced taking him one out deep in the seventh. Jorge Flores would come up and hit a solo homer to left that cut the Ports lead to 6-4. After the second out of the inning was recorded, Romero gave up an infield single to Tyler Baker and a double to Jason Morozowski, at which point he was lifted for Jared Lyons (2-3). Lyons' first pitch to Byler was hit over the right field wall for a three-run homer that vaulted Visalia in front 7-6.
Romero would be charged with three runs over 2.2 innings. Lyons, who gave up the go-ahead run, would suffer the loss.
After an inning-and-two-thirds scoreless thrown by Colin Poche and an inning-and-a-third worked by Austin Mason (1-1), Yoan Lopez (SV, 2) would strike out the first three batters he faced to take him one out deep in the ninth inning. Martin would single to put the possible-tying run aboard and Siddall came up next and was hit by a pitch. After Neuse grounded out to first to advance both runners into scoring position, White would come up with two outs and strike out swinging to end the ballgame.
Lopez would pick up the save, going an inning-and-two-thirds and allowing one hit while striking out four.
The Ports and Rawhide play the second game of their four-game set on Friday night at Recreation Ballpark. Norge Ruiz (2-0, 4.15 ERA) makes the start for Stockton, opposed by Visalia right-hander Sam Lewis (0-1, 1.50 ERA). First pitch is set for 7 p.m. PDT.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.