Determined not to lose a second heartbreaker, the Modesto Junior College baseball team rallied in a big way Saturday.
The Pirates came from behind to beat Delta 9-6 in their Big 8 Conference opener.
Modesto, still smarting from a 10-9 loss to Sierra on Tuesday, trailed Delta 6-0 before staging a successful comeback.
"The whole time, we knew we weren't playing our best," catcher Ross Brayton said. "We were going through the motions at first. Our coaches tell us it's the last three innings that matter. That's when we're clutch."
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Modesto (11-7, 1-0 Big 8) scored five runs in the seventh and four in the eighth, scattering a few hits between walks and errors. Brayton doubled in both innings, and represented the go-ahead run in the eighth.
With one out and the bases loaded, David Jacques hit a grounder to Panthers' second baseman Alex Zanini. His throw to second flew wide, allowing Justin Long (walk) and Brayton to score and Joey Blakely (walk) to reach third.
The Pirates gave themselves a three-run cushion with RBI singles by Blane Cox and David Whiteside.
"I knew David would deliver somehow," Brayton said of Jacques. "We kept building off that. It was a snowball effect."
The payoff was a long time coming. Delta starting pitcher Dakota Watts gave up just one hit but walked eight in six innings. Modesto stranded 12 batters, totaling seven hits.
But Brayton said the Pirates had faith. After trailing Sierra 8-3 on Tuesday, and coming up a run short on that comeback, Modesto wanted to start conference play off right.
It also was a big day for Brayton, who said he hadn't done much since suffering a pinched nerve in batting practice two weeks ago. He scored twice and was the only Modesto player with three hits.
"It's taken me awhile to get back," Brayton said. "It was nice to do something."
Four Pirates scored twice. Whiteside was the only other Modesto player with more than one hit, going 2 for 3.
Daniel Price got the win for Modesto in one inning of work. He got two outs to end the eighth and one in the ninth. Michael Parker got the save. Spencer Arroyo struck out four, giving up four hits and six runs -- four earned -- in 5ª innings.
Modesto is 2-1 against Big 8 schools this season. The Pirates played three Big 8 teams in nonconference games in order to give the school 12 home games. There are 21 conference meetings.
The Pirates' next home game is Thursday at 2:30 p.m. against American River. The Beavers beat Modesto 10-8 on Feb. 28.