VISALIA, CA - Inland Empire struck in the first inning to give Matt Ball a lead and, from there, Ball took over. He dished a season-high five shutout innings while allowing just one hit and walking one while the 66ers cruised to a 9-2 win.
Ball (W, 2-1) set down each of the first six hitters he faced and pitched against the minimum number of hitters into the fifth. He had not pitched past the fourth inning in any start this year, but completed five strong tonight while throwing just 65 pitches.
Visalia (48-49/11-16) mustered just three hits of offense through the first eight innings, but Rawhide starter Cole Stapler kept it close through four. Stapler (L, 0-2) suffered an unearned run in the first inning and worked out of jams in the third and fourth to keep the Rawhide trailing 1-0.
But in the fifth Inland Empire struck for three runs in a rally that was catalyzed by a swinging strikeout on a wild pitch. Dominic Miroglio had trouble finding the ball and his throw to first went wide into right, allowing Brandon Marsh to move all the way to second.
Jordan Zimmerman followed by doubling down the line to score Marsh, which chased Stapler from the game. Zimmerman would later score on a groundout by Connor Justus, which only was not a single thanks to a diving play by first baseman Pavin Smith.
Stapler was not charged with an earned run and struck out five in 4.1 innings.
Inland Empire (47-50/14-13) added on two more runs in the seventh and then scored their final runs with a three-run blast by Justus (5) in the eighth.
The lone Rawhide offense came in the ninth when Miroglio doubled off the right field wall to score Smith and Mark Karaviotis followed by singling into right, plating Miroglio.
Karaviotis registered the only hit against Ball, a double down the line in the third, and finished with the only two-hit game for the Rawhide.
Visalia will continue the series tomorrow night. The Rawhide will send a to-be-announced pitcher to the bump against RHP Adrian De Horta (0-0, 10.80). First pitch is at 7:00 PM and tickets are available on rawhidebaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.