VISALIA, CA - Jose Almonte started by loading the bases with two outs in the first inning, putting himself in immediate pitch count trouble. But the 27th-ranked prospect for the Arizona Diamondbacks found his rhythm after the second inning and settled in to retire the final 11 men he faced.
Almonte (W, 8-7) completed six innings for his fourth consecutive start and allowed only an unearned run on three hits while walking two, striking out five, and hitting two batters.
Visalia (53-50/17-16) made three spectacular defensive plays behind him to help stave off rallies for Stockton (49-54/13-20). In the second inning, Ben DeLuzio made a diving catch on a sinking line drive in left off the bat of Santiago Chavez. The line-out brought home a run, but DeLuzio saved a second run from scoring. In the third inning, with two on and one out, Seth Brown smashed a line-drive that, off the bat, appeared ticketed for right field. First baseman Austin Byler went into a full vertical leap and, at full extension, pulled down the lined shot to keep the game tied at 1. Shortstop Fernery Ozuna lit up the highlight reel in the fifth by making a diving play on a grounder straight up the middle. He then leapt to his feet, spinning around in the process, and threw out Sandber Pimmentel at first.
The Rawhide took their first lead of the game against Dalton Sawyer when Jason Morozowski hit a home run to left center, his second in the past two series, to put Visalia up 2-1. Sawyer (L, 1-4) finished out the fifth inning, but was lifted afterwards, having surrendered two runs, both on solo homers, on four hits with a carer-high four walks and four strikeouts. Visalia tacked on another run the sixth on a sacrifice bunt by David Sopilka and then broke the game open in the ninth on an RBI single by Matt McPhearson, a two-run triple by Morozowski, and a run-scoring single by Austin Byler.
The Rawhide finished with 11 hits, the 12th time they've hit the double-digit hits plateau in the past 16 games, and clobbered their 19th and 20th home runs of July thanks to the solo homers from Morozowski and Henry Castillo. Their 20 home runs in July are the best of any month this season, and are 10 shy of the 30 that they hit in the entirety of the first half.
McPhearson and Morozowski extended their hitting streaks to nine games apiece while both put up two-hit nights and, with an eighth inning single against the shift, Byler drew his streak out to eleven games.
Both teams left on 10 runners. Stockton left on six runners in the first three innings, while the Rawhide stranded seven in the first four. With the victory, Visalia has now won each of their past four series and has not lost a series since playing Modesto at Recreation Park in a three game series from July 4th through the 7th.
Visalia will welcome the Lake Elsinore Storm for a four-game series tomorrow evening, with first pitch at 7:00 on Beach Night at the ballpark. Visalia will send Arizona Diamondbacks #2 prospect Jon Duplantier (3-0, 2.66) to the hill while the Storm will start LHP Logan Allen (1-2, 3.52). Tickets are still available on Rawdhiebaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.