Rancho Cucamonga rallies in ninth to top Modesto Nuts

bvanderbeek@modbee.comJuly 20, 2013 

Nuts pitcher #19 Daniel Winkler fires a pitch towards a Quakes batter during Saturday night's (07-20-13) game at John Thurman Field.

ELIAS FUNEZ — The Modesto Bee Buy Photo

    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

The Modesto Nuts appeared on their way to a victory Saturday night when Ryan Casteel launched a first-inning grand-slam.

It was a majestic shot that bounced off his own face, or at least his own portrait, as it was being displayed on John Thurman Field's video board.

Then, the game turned around and slapped the Nuts in the face, and on the scoreboard.

Rancho Cucamonga scored four runs in the final three innings, with three runs scoring on bases-loaded walks, as the Quakes were handed a 7-6 victory in front of 4,506 fans, the Nuts' 11th sellout of the season.

Scott Oberg (1-5), who leads the California League in saves and had converted 20 of 25 save opportunities entering the game, gave up the tying run when Scott Schobler led off the ninth with a double and scored when O'Koyea Dickson bounced a two-out single up the middle.

The Quakes weren't done in the inning, but they didn't have much to do, as Oberg walked the next three batters to force home Rancho Cucamonga's game-winner.

The Nuts tried to make some noise in the bottom of the ninth, getting a leadoff single from Tyler Massey followed by a walk to David Kandilas.

Brian Humphries, the No. 3 hitter in the lineup, struck out on a foul bunt attempt with two strikes, but both runners moved up when Casteel drove the ball to warning track in center for the second out.

Taylor Featherston, in position to be the hero with a single, got out in front of a 2-2 curveball and grounded out weakly to first base to end the game.

Modesto scored four runs within the first 12 pitches thrown by Rancho starter Gustavo Gomez, who had been staked to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.

Gomez was greeted by back-to-back singles off the bats of Massey and Kandilas, then Humphries loaded the bases when he beat-out his push bunt to the right side.

Casteel worked a 3-2 count before launching his high drive to left center that struck the upper half of the scoreboard, well above the 393-feet sign.

The blast carried a measure of local significance for Casteel. It was his 20th of the season, tying him with A.J. Hinch for the most home runs by a catcher since Thurman Field was renovated and the playing field drastically expanded prior to the 1997 season.

Modesto starter Dan Winkler also is chasing some records. He entered the game leading the minor leagues with 12 wins and 131 strikeouts, and left the game with a 6-3 lead through six innings, having whiffed eight Quakes.

Rancho got back into the game when Kenny Roberts walked in a run in the seventh and Bruce Kern did the same in the eighth, paving the way for Winkler's decision to disappear in the ninth.

NUTS NOTES: Modesto struck out 14 times, giving the Nuts 29 whiffs in the last two games and 1,015 through the season's first 100 games. No team in California League history has gone through an entire season averaging 10 or more strikeouts per game … Blake Smith, a graduate of Downey High School and the University of California, is back in the Cal League with the Quakes. He opened the season as an outfielder with Double-A Chattanooga, but the parent Los Angeles Dodgers have decided to start using him as a pitcher.

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

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