It's over for Nuts: Visalia sweeps playoff series

Swanner's parting shot is a homer

bvanderbeek@modbee.comSeptember 5, 2013 

This was the Modesto Nuts' 2013 season, wrapped up in one playoff game.

They battled, they struck out, they got good pitching, struck out a few times, got a timely hit, battled some more, and in the end, struck out.

Thursday's season-ending 3-2 loss to Visalia had all of the above — including 16 strikeouts from a Modesto team that set a California League record this season for whiffing — wrapped up in a tidy 12-inning package.

Down by a run with two outs left in the season, the Nuts sent the game into extra innings on a dramatic solo home run by Will Swanner, only to see Visalia push across the winning run in the 12th. The Nuts lost 4-2 Wednesday night, for the two-game sweep.

Gerson Montilla led off the 12th with a single against Patrick Johnson, but remained there through the next two outs. Tom Belza lined a ball to the wall in right, and by the time Modesto got the relay back to the infield, Montilla scored the game-winner.

Conrad Flynn, who pitched the final three innings for the Rawhide, breezed through the bottom of the Nuts' order in the bottom of the 12th to send Visalia into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Modesto also was Visalia's victim in that series, which also was a two-game sweep.

The Rawhide now get a day off before opening the best-of-five North Division championship series with games in San Jose on Saturday and Sunday.

Like they always do, the Nuts will bring a nearly new roster to John Thurman Field for the April, 2014, season opener. The vast majority of the current Nuts roster, who rallied from a rough first half to claim the second half title for a third straight season, will start next season in Double-A Tulsa.

But much in their preferred manner of the 2013 season, the Nuts' final loss came only after they battled back from an early deficit.

Visalia took a 1-0 lead in the second on Tom Belza's single and Ryan Stovall's double into the right field gap, and added a run in the fifth on Jake Lamb's two-out RBI single up the middle.

It was remarkable that two runs were all the Rawhide could manage against Nuts' starter Chris Jensen, who seemed to be pitching out of the stretch through his entire five-inning stint.

In fact, Visalia had 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position while Jensen was on the mound, but the right-hander whiffed seven batters to help stall the threats.

But Modesto wasn't even threatening against Rawhide starter Andrew Barbosa, managing to hit only two singles through the first five innings.

The Nuts finally struck in the sixth, and singles by Tyler Massey and Brian Humphries forced Visalia manager Bill Plummer to yank Barbosa with one out. Jared Simon's two-out single to left plated Massey with Modesto's first run.

That would be it for the Nuts until the ninth, when — with one out — Swanner turned on a 1-0 fastball from Rawhide closer R.J. Hively and crushed it well into the night over the left-field fence.

There was some excitement in the bottom of the 10th when Brian Humphries lined a one-out single, but Ryan Casteel followed with a double-play ground ball.

The relay to first base pulled Belza off the bag, and umpire Paul Clemons first called Casteel out, then ejected Nuts' manager Fred Nelson for arguing the call.

Visalia staged a two-out rally in the 11th, loading the bases on a walk, an infield single and another walk against Patrick Johnson. Facing Kevin Medrano, who already had notched four hits, Johnson managed to record an inning-ending strikeout.

Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150

Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service