STOCKTON – While Monday marked the end of the California League’s regular season, it’s now the eve of the 2018 playoffs for both the Visalia Rawhide and the Stockton Ports at Stockton Ballpark.
For one night anyway, Monday’s contest between the two playoff foes felt like more of a rehearsal for Wednesday’s Game 1 of their best-of-five series beginning in Stockton. Visalia’s 7-4 victory gave the Rawhide (33-37 second half, 70-70 overall) a share of the second-half title with the Ports (33-37, 77-63), who won the first half outright.
Stockton’s Grant Holmes, the No. 22 overall pick of the 2014 draft, made a rehab start and allowed three runs on three hits over three innings. He struck out four, walked two and hit two batters. He left with the Ports losing 3-1, with Stockton’s Edwin Diaz hitting a solo home run.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, Stockton tied the game at 4-4 with three runs on a walk and a two-run single by Greg Deichmann. That rally ended with strikeouts to Diaz and Sandber Pimentel. In the eighth, Visalia scored an unearned run that proved to be the game-winner.
Ports manager Rick Magnante said after spring training he saw a roster full of potential for a successful season.
“In terms of the ballclub, when I met with them on day one before the first game and I said, ‘I believe you guys are special people, special players, and I think we have a chance to have a special season’,” Magnante said. “And, I believe we’ve had a special season.
“It’s a phenomenon for me at the end of the season because you’re at it every single day and you’re so focused,” he added. “You’re checking off the days, trying to find your way through it and making the players better. When it’s over, it’s over. It really kind of impacts me a little bit – when it’s over.”
Gavin Avila, age 8 from Tracy, was among the 2,810 fans who seized the chance to see the Ports for one of the final opportunities this summer. He regularly positions himself along the first base stands in hopes of warming up a Stockton ballplayer prior to the game, and infielder Cobie Vance complied.
“That’s my second time warming him up, and he’s throwing really good,” Avila said. “My favorite part is getting to meet the players.”
Chase Calabuig said his first minor-league season since being drafted has been a learning experience.
“It’s gone by very fast,” Calabuig said. “With college and everything you look back and realize there’s been a lot of baseball played. I’m happy the playoffs are coming, and that we can give it one last little push. For me, I’m going to take it out there and work on my game and prove to people this is where I belong and set myself up for next year.”
Pre-game awards included one to left fielder Luke Persico, the team Player of the Year, and Matt Milburn, the team’s Pitcher of the Year. Andrew Tomasovich is the recipient of the Dallas Braden Community Service Award. Tracy’s Dwaine Johnson was announced as the Stockton Ports Fan of the Year. The season-ticket holder of four seasons said several people deserved the award.