STOCKTON, CA - In a back-and-forth contest between the Rawhide and the Ports to close out the 2018 regular season, it was a pair of home runs that proved to be the difference in a 7-4 win at Banner Island Ballpark.
Marcus Wilson hit his tenth homer of the season, a solo blast in the fifth, and Daulton Varsho added on to a one-run Visalia lead with a two-run shot in the ninth. It was Varsho's second home run of the series, eleventh of the season, and nineteenth of his career.
Visalia (70-70/33-37) put a crooked number on the board in the first inning for the second straight night, scoring three runs against Ports starter Grant Holmes on a run-scoring single by Varsho and a two-run double from Renae Martinez.
Edwin Diaz hit a solo blast for Stockton (77-63/33-37) with two outs in the second to get the Ports on the board. From there, Stockton loaded the bases on three straight walks by Jake Winston. But Winston got out of the jam on a popout to keep Visalia on top.
The Ports would load the bases again in the third and put a runner on base in every inning through the fifth. But the Rawhide bullpen held tough.
With the Rawhide leading 4-1, Stockton broke through against Robby Sexton in the seventh with a pair of base hits to lead off the inning. After Sexton got the first out of the frame on a fielder's choice, he walked Luke Persico to load the bases. After two borderline pitches to Viosergy Rosa loaded the count to the left-handed slugger, Sexton narrowly missed with another pitch to bring home a run. The lead was down to 4-2.
Greg Deichmann followed on the next pitch by singling to left to plate a pair and tie the game at 4.
But Visalia didn't stay down for long. Renae Martinez reached on a throwing error by shortstop Edwin Diaz to start the eighth. Then with two outs, Adam Walton got a hitter's count from Trey Cochran-Gill and laced a triple to right center, plating Martinez and putting the Rawhide up 5-4.
Varsho added his two-run shot off of Cochran-Gill (L, 1-2) in the ninth to add some insurance.
Jason Creasy (W, 1-1) tossed a scoreless eighth, walking one and striking out one and Breckin Williams (SV, 2) pitched a perfect ninth to wrap up the win for the Rawhide. Visalia used six different pitchers in the true definition of a bullpen game to close out the regular season.
Varsho finished with two hits and three RBI and Wilson extended his hitting streak to six games to close out the season. Wilson also put up a pair of hits and Walton put up both a double and a triple, including the go-ahead RBI in the eighth. Six of Visalia's 10 hits went for extra bases.
Though they had clinched a playoff berth two nights before, the win gave Visalia their first second-half championship since 2007, and their first such championship under the Rawhide moniker. They will face the Ports in the best-of-five North Division Championship Series starting at Banner Island Ballpark on September 5. The Rawhide will host at least one home game on Friday, September 7 with postgame fireworks thanks to the Allen Law Firm. Tickets will go on sale at 10 AM on September 4 on Rawhidebaseball.com.
The North Division Championship Series will begin Wednesday at 7:10 PM and will match up RHP Riley Smith (8-6, 3.57), who has the third-best ERA in the California League, against RHP Matt Milburn (9-5, 3.49) who is second in the league in wins and has the second-best ERA in the league. 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.