VISALIA, Calif. - The Stockton Ports earned their first win of the season at Recreation Ballpark on Monday night. After being swept in four games in Visalia in late April, the Boys of Banner Island clung to a slim lead for the majority of Monday night's contest and earned a 4-3 win over the Visalia Rawhide to open a three-game series.
The Ports struck first in the top of the third inning as Jonah Bride singled to open the frame and scored two batters later on a double by Ryan Gridley. Visalia countered in the last of the fourth as Jake McCarthy singled with one out, stole second and third and scored on a groundout by Renae Martinez to knot the game at 1-1.
Visalia's run in the fourth inning was the only run surrendered by Ports starter Gus Varland, who did not factor into the decision after allowing two hits while walking three and striking out four in four innings.
The Ports took the lead for good in the top of the fifth. Robert Mullen led off and was hit by a pitch and Gridley followed with a two-run homer to left that gave the Ports a 3-1 advantage. Those were the last runs allowed by Rawhide starter Justin Lewis (0-1), who suffered the loss in his California League debut after allowing three runs on five hits while striking out a career-best eight in five innings.
Nick Highberger (5-2) took over for Varland in the fifth and surrendered a one-out triple to Jancarlos Cintron, who scored on an ensuing groundout by L.T. Tolbert to draw the Rawhide to within a run at 3-2. It was the only run allowed by Highberger, who picked up the win after going a season-long three innings and allowing one run on three hits while striking out five.
Stockton widened its lead in the seventh inning as Bride led off with a double and scored three batters later on a fielder's choice groundout by Jameson Hannah to make it a 4-2 game. It was the lone run allowed by Rawhide reliever Cole Bartlett in his three innings of relief.
Peter Bayer (SV, 4) took over in the eighth and issued a walk with one out to Tolbert who scored on an ensuing double by Luis Basabe to cut the Ports lead to 4-3. Bayer, though, would go on to retire the next five batters in succession including a perfect ninth inning to notch his fourth save of the season. Bayer allowed one hit while striking out three in two innings.
The Ports and Rawhide play the middle game of their three-game series on Tuesday night at Recreation Ballpark. James Kaprielian (1-2, 4.91 ERA) makes the start for Stockton, opposed by Visalia right-hander Jeff Bain (4-5, 3.06 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.