The Modesto Nuts trailed 6-0 in the sixth inning, and Thurman Field wasn't much louder than a Sunday morning church service.
Four innings later, they celebrated like third-graders with an improbable 7-6 winners over Visalia. Brett Tanos' bouncer through the right side chased home red-hot Kyle Parker, sending the entire Nuts dugout onto the field to celebrate with Tanos.
And it wasn't so quiet anymore in the Nuts' ballyard.
What they did to bump their lead over the Rawhide to three games in the North Division may have resonated more than the post-game fireworks.
"Our kids don't give up at-bats," said manager Lenn Sakata, his spirits fueled by back-to-back signature wins. "A hell of a game. A big win."
Kyle Parker, arguably the California League's hottest hitter since the All-Star break, ignited the 10th with a walk and advanced to second on a single to right by Jared Clark. Enter Tanos, 0-for-4 until his game-winner.
Parker's 19th homer, a solo homer to left in the sixth, was his sixth bomb in his last five games. Still, the homer brought Modesto to only 6-2 and seemed innocent at the time.
He (Parker) is working his at-bats and he's more devoted to being a good all-around baseball player," Sakata said. You can't say how much effort he's putting in to his at-bats."
The Nuts, perhaps inspired by Parker, got serious in the ninth. After a walk to Juan Crousset, Jayson Langfels homered to dead-center, his 400-foot shot incredibly bouncing twice on the top of the wall before it disappeared.
Moments later, Visalia second baseman Garrett Weber kicked Joey Wong's routine ground ball and then threw it away to put Wong at second. Rafael Ortega, the Modesto leadoff man, then launched an 1-0 pitch from Seth Simmons over the wall in right to tie the game and bring 3,424 to their feet.
Weber stared at the grass, his hands on his knees, while Ortega happily circled the bases with the tying run.
No decision for Hagens
It turned out to be a tough no-decision for Visalia starter Bradin Hagens, the Pitman High graduate from Turlock, who retired Modesto on only four hits through seven innings. He waved to hometown friends as he walked toward the clubhouse in the eighth while the Rawhide coasted along 6-2.
Hagens, a converted reliever who's rallied this season as a starter, retired the first 11 Nuts before Dallas Tarleton's walk in the fourth. He had the Nuts flailing at his pitches, featuring six strikeouts and eight ground-ball outs, and allowed only four hits.
"He (Hagens) had control of pretty much everything," Parker said. "It was tough for us to put a bat on the ball."
Regardless of Friday night's drama, the Nuts will struggle all weekend if leadoff man Ender Inciarte (4-for-4), a second-half callup for the Rawhide, continues to terrorize them. The swift 5-foot-11 outfielder from Venezuela has torched everyone he was batting .320 entering the game but he's especially hurt Modesto. He did everything for Visalia except serve the post-game spread.
Inciarte singled to center, beat out a bunt, tripled to left on a misplay by Delta Cleary Jr., sacrificed and singled over the head of shortstop Joey Wong. All told, he scored three times.
He also ended the night for Modesto starter Tyler when he raced home on a passed ball, clipping the Modesto starter's leg on the slide at the plate. Matzek's night was done after only 2-plus innings.
The major damage against Matzek (5-9) was inflicted in the first inning. The first three Rawhide batters, keynoted by Inciarte, scored, and Matzek needed 27 pitches just to escape.
The box score told a provoacative story all six Visalia runs were plated by the Rawhide's top third of the order.
Modesto's response in the end, however, was even more bold.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2302.
California League Playoff Chase
TONIGHT: The North Division series continues tonight at 7 p.m. with the teams' fifth of six consecutive games. Modesto hosts Visalia at 7:05 p.m.
BLOG: Ron Agostini breaks down the Nuts' wild finish from Thursday night in Visalia. Visit thehive.modbee.com/extrapoints.