High-A Visalia 6 @ Bakersfield 3. The Rawhide came in with a 2-0 lead in the best of five series, having won the previous games, 11-9 and 3-2. But it was the Blaze who struck quickly, Joel Payamps allowing a home-run to the second batter he faced in the bottom of the first. He worked in and out of trouble all night, scattering eight hits and two walks over 4.1 innings, but held Bakersfield to two runs, as they were all but shut down in the clutch, going 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position tonight.
Solo homers in the second inning, by C Michael Perez and LF Victor Reyes, put the visitors up, but the game was likely decided in the fifth inning. In the top half, Visalia scored four times, Reyes getting a two-run single followed by RBI knocks from DH Trevor Mitsui and 3B Marty Herum, to open up a 6-1 edge. Then, in the bottom half, with the Blaze having already scored once and with two more men on, Cameron Gann relieved Payamps and got an inning ending double-play. Gann pitched two scoreless frames and got the W.
Kirby Bellow, Nick Baker and Gabriel Moya each tossed an inning in relief, as the Rawhide moved inexorably towards victory. Reyes and Perez each had two hits, including their homers, with the latter also walking. They hit .583 and .545 respectively in the series. The defeat was the literal end for Bakersfield, as the team is being contracted out of the California League. despite it being “the ninth-biggest city in California, 375,000 people strong, and larger than Tampa, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.”
Meanwhile, on the happier side of tonight’s game. the Rawhide now move onto the California League final, where they will face the winner of the High Desert vs. Lancaster series, which High Desert currently leads 2-1. That series starts on Friday, and will be their tenth attempt to win the championship, and end a drought which stretched 38 years, back to their last title in 1978. An alligator may be involved in that curse...