MODESTO, CA -Offensively, the metaphor of "moving the line" is often used when players follow up hits with more hits and productive outs, leading to a big inning or a rally. To borrow the phrase: tonight, in what was a borderline must-win game, the Visalia bullpen moved the line when they were summoned upon in the fifth inning, trailing 2-1.
Breckin Williams started the fifth and, after allowing a single and a walk in the fifth, proceeded to retire the final four men he faced, fanning three in the process. Next up was the left-hander Robby Sexton, who pitched a perfect seventh.
Then, after a two-out single by Drew Ellis brought home the tying run against southpaw Anthony McIver in the eighth, Matt Brill was asked to hold the tie.
Brill walked leadoff man Kevin Santa, then Jordan Cowan bunted him to second to put the go-ahead run in scoring position with one out. But Brill got a harmless groundout from Evan White and froze Luis Liberato with a breaking ball to strike him out and end the inning.
In the top of the ninth, after the bullpen had delivered four shutout innings, the Rawhide offense got to work against Colin Kober. Ramon Hernandez started the inning with a single, his second hit of the night, and was promptly replaced by Luis Alejandro Basabe as a pinch runner. Pavin Smith followed by singling to left for his third knock of the evening. Basabe held at second as the go-ahead run.
Then Kober rallied to strike out both Stephen Smith and Anfernee Grier, leaving it up to Adam Walton, who had gone hitless in his first at bats in the series, to try and cash in on the opportunity. On the first pitch of the at bat, Walton laced a single into center. Basabe scored with Ease, Smith held at first, and the Rawhide held their first lead of the game, 3-2.
With a one-one count, Walton was put in motion and Camden Duzenack doubled down the line in right, scoring both Smith and Walton. Though Duzenack was caught off of second to end the inning, the Rawhide had padded their lead, 5-2.
Brill (W, 2-3) pulled off the finale on the bullpen's masterpiece. With two outs and a runner on following a one-out walk, Brill dropped in another breaking ball, this time buckling the knees of Nick Thurman to end the game and secure the win for Visalia (67-68/30-35).
Williams, Sexton, and Brill combined to throw five one-hit, shutout innings while striking out seven Nuts hitters. Rawhide starter Matt Peacock was removed after the fourth, having allowed two runs, one earned, on three hits while striking out three.
Modesto (59-76/29-36), whose bullpen had delivered ten consecutive wins when handed a lead from the rotation, saw their 'pen allow four runs over two innings. Auston Hutchison was given a no-decision, despite going seven innings while allowing just one run on five hits while striking out five.
Kober (L, 1-1) was given his first loss of the season and saw his ERA jump over a full run by allowing all three ninth-inning runs.
Pavin Smith finished with his sixth three-hit game of the season and scored a run while Duzenack put up his first multi-hit game since returning from the Disabled List and drove home a pair. Hernandez put up his third straight two-hit game for the Rawhide.
Visalia remains one game out of first place with five games remaining, though they now hold a one-game lead over the Nuts. Modesto is the lone team that can unseat Visalia from a playoff bid. The final regular season matchup between the two teams is tomorrow night.
The Rawhide will start RHP Jeff Bain (4-2, 4.22) in the rubber match of the series against Modesto RHP Ljay Newsome (6-10, 4.84). First pitch is at 7:05 PM and the live radio broadcast will be available on rawhidebaseball.com.
The Visalia Rawhide are a professional baseball team in the Class A Advanced California League and are the only professional sports team in Tulare and Kings counties. The team has been an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks since 2007 and is entering their 72nd year of play in 2018. The Rawhide renovated their home at Recreation Ballpark in 2009 and have since become the largest gathering of individuals in Tulare County, having set an attendance record for the seventh time in the past eight seasons in 2017. In 2018, the Rawhide look to continue their reputation for hosting competitive baseball while providing affordable family entertainment. To be a part of the 2018 Visalia Rawhide season, please contact the Visalia Rawhide Ticket Office at 559.732.4433, visit us online at rawhidebaseball.com, or follow us on Facebook (TheRawhide), Instagram (@VisaliaRawhide), and Twitter (@VisaliaRawhide).
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.