VISALIA, CA - In the first night of a four-game battle for first place in the Cal League North, Stockton came out of the gates swinging; the Ports took a commanding five-run lead before the Rawhide had come to the plate. The first three hitters all reached against Matt Peacock and, after Brett Siddal clubbed a three-run homer, Peacock worked his way out of the inning.
From there, he locked in. Peacock didn't allow another hit until the sixth, striking out seven hitters in the process.
The respite from Ports runs allowed Visalia to stoke the embers of a comeback. Jazz Chisholm doubled and scored on a double play in the fourth to get the Rawhide on the board and Stephen Smith added on with a two-run blast against Wyatt Marks in the fifth to bring Stockton's lead to 5-3.
Both teams struck for a run in the sixth, then Visalia (65-65/28-32) got to the Ports bullpen in the seventh. Sam Sheehan, who had escaped a jam in the sixth with no damage, walked two hitters with one out to set up Daulton Varsho with the tying run on base.
After a double steal put two runners in scoring position, and with an overshift to the right side of the infield, Varsho served a single out to left center, plating both runs and tying the game at 6.
Breckin Williams, Robby Sexton, and West Tunnel combined to throw three no-hit, shutout innings through the middle of the ninth and, though Visalia had the winning run on base in both the eighth and ninth, the game went to extras.
Stockton (71-59/27-33) scored their go-ahead run on a bang-bang play at the plate in the top of the tenth but, thanks to groundouts by Pavin Smith and Adam Walton, the Rawhide took advantage of the automatic runner on second and manufactured a run to tie the game at seven.
That set the stage for Erbert Gonzalez, who started the eleventh with a runner at second base but held him there. In the true fashion of the "next-man-up" mentality, Gonzlaez (W, 1-0) handed it over to the offense.
With Anfernee Grier starting the bottom of the eleventh on second base, Stephen Smith attempted to lay down a bunt of his own accord. The first bunt went foul down the third base line, but his second was of the textbook variety: about halfway up the line right between the mound and foul ground.
Ports reliever Angel Duno (L, 4-4) made a nice bare-handed play after getting to the ball, but his throw to first hit Smith in the ankle and trickled into right. Grier sped home around third and Visalia walked off in extra innings for the first time this year, claiming an 8-7 win.
Varsho finished with a pair of hits and two-RBI while Chisholm had two hits, walked twice, and scored twice. Smith's home run was his second in as many nights. Peacock's tale-of-two-outings resulted in a no-decision, though over his final five innings he held the Ports to one run on two hits.
The five-run lead was the largest deficit erased by Visalia in a winning effort this year and marked the first time they had walked off since July 2. The Rawhide now have sole possession of first place with ten games remaining in the regular season. Visalia will play Stockton (one game back) seven more times and Modesto (two games back) in three more games.
The Rawhide look for their third win of the season tomorrow night when RHP Jeff Bain (3-2, 5.19) takes the bump against Ports LHP Zack Erin (8-9, 5.21). 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.