MODESTO, CA - For the second straight night Keegan Long was summoned to protect a one-run Rawhide lead with the game on the line. Tonight, Long entered with a 2-1 Visalia advantage in the bottom of the ninth inning was set to face the bottom third of the Modesto order.
Long made short work of Bryson Brigman, who popped out to first base. Then he ran into trouble.
Long walked Tyler Baker on four pitches and, after working the count full against Jorge Solano, issued a free pass to him as well, putting the potential tying and winning runs on base for the top of the order.
With a one-one count, Evan White smacked a sharp grounder towards first that Ramon Hernandez was able to knock down by sliding to his knees. Hernandez gathered the ball and sprang to his feet, only to find that he had no play. The Nuts had the bases loaded and the tying run on third with one out.
Long then fell behind Joe Rizzo in a three-ball count, but fought his way back to force the count full. Rizzo hit a grounder to first and Hernandez, reading the ball as too softly hit to turn a double play, launched forward and recorded the force out at home, preserving the one-run Rawhide lead.
The bases remained loaded for Logan Taylor, who already had three hits on the night. Long worked ahead with two strikes, only to see the count go full once again. With the full count, the bases loaded, two outs, and a 2-1 lead, Long (SV, 1) slipped in a breaking ball that nicked the inside corner to strike out Taylor and end the ballgame.
Modesto (3-7) also loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh. Facing the lefty Richie Sexton, Baker chopped a grounder towards the right side that looked ticketed for right field. Second baseman Adam Walton made a headlong dive to snare the ball and popped to his knees to throw out Baker and end the threat, saving at least one run in the process.
Visalia (6-4) had multiple chances to score insurance runs, but the Modesto bullpen held the Rawhide at bay. The Nuts stranded five Rawhide runners in the final four innings of the game, three of whom were in scoring position. Visalia left nine runners on base on the night.
Walton led the way for the Rawhide offense with a three-hit night and scored a run. Stephen Smith also added a pair of hits for Visalia and Mark Karaviotis drove in his fourth run of the series.
Visalia starter Connor Grey lasted into the sixth inning and, despite failing to strike a batter out, kept Nuts batters off balance. Gray (W, 1-0) allowed just one run while scattering seven hits and walking one. Sexton inherited two runners from Gray in the sixth inning and stranded both.
Darren McCaughen (L, 0-2) was given the hard-luck loss, allowing two runs on five hits over five innings.
Visalia concludes the series in Modesto tomorrow afternoon and will match up RHP Sam McWilliams (1-1, 4.50) on the mound against Nuts RHP Randy Bell (1-0, 3.18). First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 PM and the live radio broadcast will be available on rawhidebaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.