VISALIA, CA - Twice named the Cal League Pitcher of the Week in August, Connor Grey was cruising through four innings. The Rawhide have given him an early four-run lead and he had run with it, tossing four shutout innings and retiring nine straight hitters after striking out Brett Siddall to start the fifth.
Then, for the first time in a month, Grey had a tough inning. He gave up a rolling, seeing-eye single to Edwin Dias up the middle and, on the next pitch, Sandber Pimentel hit a missile over the right field wall to bring Stockton within two. The Ports followed with two more runs and got a sacrifice fly from Kevin Merrell to narrow the Rawhide lead to 4-3.
Stockton (1-2) struck once again against Grey in the sixth, though they did so without the benefit of a hit. He walked both Luke Persico and Viosergy Rosa to start the inning, then back-to-back flyouts to left brought home Persico to tie the game.
But the tie wouldn't hold for long.
The Rawhide rallied against Ports starter Kyle Friedrichs, who had been in a groove of his own by retiring 12 of 13 hitters from the second on. Pavin Smith hit against the shift to reach base in the sixth, and the Rawhide offense got to work from there.
Ramon Hernandez drove his second double of the game down the left field line to put runners and second and third with one out. With the infield in, Anfernee Grier punched a grounder through the left side to put Visalia back on top, 5-4. With Hernandez at third Grier stole second on the next pitch, which prompted Stockton to bring the infield in again.
Adam Walton took advantage by putting a bounding ball through the left side for an RBI single of his own. With runners on the corners, Walton left on the next pitch. Ports catcher Collin Theroux threw down to second and Grier broke for the plate from third. Second baseman Trace Loehr broke in to cut the ball off, but he could pick Theroux's short hop to second and Grier scored without a throw.
Camden Duzenack followed with a ground rule double to right center, plating Walton and capping a four-run rally with five straight hits. Friedrichs (L, 0-1) was lifted after Duzenack's double.
Marcus Wilson would triple with one out in the seventh and score on a slow bouncer up the middle by Hernandez to put Visalia up 9-4, the game's final score.
Grey (W, 1-0) left after the sixth, having struck out seven Ports hitters while allowing four runs on six hits. It was the first time he'd allowed more than one run in a game in three starts and just the second time he'd given up four runs since the calendar turned to August.
Stockton started to rally against West Tunnell in the seventh with two singles and a hit batsman to load the bases with nobody out, bringing the tying run to the plate. But Tunnell wiggled out of the jam, inducing a grounder back to the mound that turned into a double play ball to cut off the lead runner at home and get the hitter at first. Tunnell struck out Persico to end the threat.
Breckin Williams pitched a perfect eighth and Carlos Bustamante got a double play ball to work around a one-out walk in the ninth and close out a five-run win for the Rawhide. Visalia (2-1) now holds the advantage in the best-of-five series with game four set to start at 7 PM from Rawhide Ballpark tomorrow night.
Duzenack led the way for the Visalia offense with three hits, two RBI, and a run scored. Hernandez provided a pair of doubles, drove home a run, and scored twice. Jasrado Chisholm opened the scoring on the night with a two-run moonshot in the bottom of the first that nearly left the stadium to right field, his first career postseason home run.
Visalia can secure a California League Championship Series berth with a win tomorrow night and will send RHP Cole Stapler (1-7, 4.29/0-0. -.--) to the hill against Stockton RHP Grant Holmes (0-0, 4.50/0-0, -.--). First pitch is at 7:00 PM and tickets are 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.