STOCKTON — The Visalia Rawhide scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning and beat the Ports 5-3 in Game 1 of the Cal League North Division championship series in front of 1,760 Wednesday at Stockton Ballpark.
Visalia opened the ninth tied at two with Stockton, and got back-to-back singles from Camden Duzenack and Jazz Chisholm to chase Ports pitcher Pat Krall.
Angel Duno entered for the Ports and recorded two consecutive outs. But with two outs, Marcus Wilson launched a three-run homer to put the Rawhide ahead for good. Viosergy Rosa added a solo homer for the Ports in the bottom of the ninth, but that was the extent of the threat.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is at 7:10 p.m. Thursday at Stockton Ballpark.
After Ports starter Matt Milburn (9-5, 3.49 earned run average entering Wednesday) surrendered a leadoff walk to Drew Ellis to start the third, he retired 10 consecutive batters to help keep the Ports on top.
Milburn labored in the sixth, though, allowing singles to Wilson and Pavin Smith and walking Ramon Hernandez. He exited with one out, and reliever Sam Sheehan yielded the tying run with a four-pitch walk to Renae Martinez.
But Sheehan was unfazed and induced a double play ground ball from Anfernee Grier to end the top of the sixth.
Stockton’s Brett Siddall belted a two-run homer on the 10th pitch of his at-bat against Rawhide starter Riley Smith in the second. The left-handed hitting Siddall, one of the Ports’ few returning players from a year ago, would miss a chance with two on and one out in the fifth – grounding into an inning-ending double play.
The Ports missed another scoring chance on yet another inning-ending double play in the fifth. Trace Loehr hit a soft, one-hop liner to third base, only to have Visalia’s Ellis step on third and throw out Loehr at first.
Stockton and Milburn endured a rocky start on defense, as catcher Collin Theroux (former Delta College player) allowed a run on a passed ball in the first.
But center fielder Chase Calabuig ran down a potential RBI double or triple to end the third, and the Ports were playing error free baseball through six frames.
Milburn finished second in the Cal League in ERA in the regular season (Smith was third). The 25-year-old right-hander from Dallas had delivered quality starts in eight of his past 10 starts entering Wednesday. Milburn allowed two earned runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings, with four strikeouts and three walks.
NOTES: Stockton is in pursuit of its 12th Cal League title and first since 2008 when eventual MVP (albeit with Toronto) Josh Donaldson was on the roster. …The Ports’ manager Rick Magnante, in his fourth season with the club, was named the 2018 Cal League Manager of the Year. …Stockton and Visalia have now met 15 times in their past 30 games. …The Ports won the North Division first half title and shared the second half title with Visalia, finishing with a 77-63 overall record. …Oakland A’s reliever Andrew Triggs came on in the seventh as part of a rehab assignment.