Swanner boosts Nuts to 10th-inning victory

Catcher's drive gives Modesto home sweep

bvanderbeek@modbee.comMay 6, 2013 

    alternate textBrian VanderBeek
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: Sports, including preps, colleges and the Modesto Nuts
    Bio: Brian VanderBeek joined The Bee in 1996 after previously working at The Home News-Tribune and The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, the (Dover) Delaware State News and the Hanford Sentinel. He is a graduate of Ripon High, Modesto Junior College and holds a degree in journalism from Fresno State.
    Recent stories written by Brian
    On Twitter: @modestobeek
    E-mail: bvanderbeek@modbee.com

Will Swanner hopes he has reached the end of what will be the longest month of his professional baseball career.

He's one of the top catching prospects in the Colorado organization, but suffered through an unfathomably poor April, hitting .150 with one home run and three RBI.

Perhaps all of that was left behind with one swing on Monday night, as Swanner hit a 2-2 pitch to the wall in left-center to score Harold Riggins with the winning run in the Modesto Nuts' 4-3, 10-inning victory over Bakersfield.

The Nuts, who had lost eight straight games going into the series, completed a four-game sweep of the Blaze and open a three-game set against rival Stockton tonight at John Thurman Field.

Riggins walked with one out and took second on a wild pitch. For the second time in the game Bakersfield chose to walk Juan Crousset ahead of Swanner with runners in scoring position, and this time it backfired.

"It was amazing, not just for me but the team," said Swanner, shivering from the on-field ice water bath he received from teammartes.

"We'd been struggling, and to get a four-game sweep like this is huge for all of us. I can't explain what I'm feeling right now, but we're in a good direction."

Modesto starter Tyler Anderson, still looking for his first California League victory, pitched more than well enough to win, blanking the Blaze on two hits over six innings.

He was matched inning-for-inning by Bakersfield's Carlos Gonzalez, who was making his first start of the season, but the Nuts put Anderson in a position to get the win in the sixth.

Modesto scored two runs in the inning, but a potential huge uprising was quashed by a rare baseball mistake.

Tyler Massey and Taylor Featherston led off with singles, and a one-out single by Riggins broke the scoreless tie.

Trevor Story followed with a booming double, but as the ball was sailing toward the right-center gap Featherston was holding near second base for a possible tag-up, while Riggins got a better read on the ball and was already at second base when the ball landed.

The two runners turned third base separated by about 10 feet, and third base coach Jon Stone gave Featherston the go-ahead to score while putting up the stop sign for Riggins.

Stone did more than hold up his hands. He stepped into Riggins' path and made contact with the baserunner. When the Blaze appealed the play, Riggins was called out for interference.

It was the second out of the inning and the Nuts would have to settle for the 2-0 lead.

Modesto took the two-run margin into the eighth, when reliever Will Rankin walked two Bakersfield batters, and both scored on Kyle Waldrop's two-out bloop double to short center.

The Blaze was gifted the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth on a throwing error, but the Nuts got a two-out, two-strike RBI single from Massey to force extra innings.

It was there that Swanner was able to take advantage of the one last chance the Blaze gave him to be a hero. It also gave him a chance to celebrate the first week of a new month.

"It's been a struggle and everyone goes through them, but you learn from your struggles, not though success," Swanner said. "This was a big month for me in learning how to deal with failure because I've never really had failure like the before.

"I was frustrated in April, but coach Stone and (manager) Lenny (Sakata) have been positive, positive, positive all the way. My mentality through all of this is that I will work my way through."

Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek

Nuts' fans no longer have to hold their noses when the wind blows in from left. Why? Read Brian VanderBeek's blog at modbee.com/blogs.

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