Stockton Notebook: Ports Drop Close One

Stockton, CA-On a chilly Monday night in Stockton the Modesto Nuts came to town for a one game series. Strong starting pitching was the theme of the night. Each teams' starting southpaws are very different pitchers. Paul Rathert has the report from Stockton.

Ports reliever Ryan Ford was making a spot-start to help a rotation in disarray due to inclement weather and the cold bug that a large portion of the team is fighting. Ford rarely, if ever, hits 90 MPH on the gun, but velocity is not his game. Instead, he uses control of all of his pitches to work both sides of the plate, keeping hitters off-balance and inducing as many ground balls as possible.

Nuts starter Franklin Morales throws a low 90s fastball that he complements with a low 80s changeup. His heater was clocked at 93 in the 6th when he used it to strike out hot-hitting Richie Robnett. His best pitch is a sharp-breaking curve. Though he throws it in the low 70s, it breaks more like a power curve. He introduced the pitch to Travis Buck in the first inning for his first strikeout of the game and caught Buck looking.

Both pitchers were strong on the mound, allowing a run apiece before being relieved. Ford was held to a 60-pitch limit, but made the most of them by striking out three batters and not allowing a walk, though he did hit a batter. Morales went 5.2 innings and struck out four batters, but did allow two walks and also hit a batter.

Ford left the game with the score tied 1-1. Trent Peterson retired the last batter in the 5th, pitched a solid 1-2-3 6th, but got into trouble in the 7th. Kyle Wilson led off with a solid single to left and Jonathan Herrera followed with a solid single to right. Peterson got the next batter, third baseman Duke Sardinha, to swing-and-miss for strike three.

Nuts' second baseman Sandy Almonte came up next and Peterson threw a wild pitch, allowing the runners to advance to 2nd and 3rd. Peterson induced a grounder to second baseman Gregorio Petit, who looked the runners back before getting the force at first. With two outs and two runners in scoring position rightfielder Christopher Frey came up and proceeded to hit his first professional home run.

The three-run shot put the game out of reach, though first baseman Tommy Everidge hit a solo bomb to left-centerfield off reliever Jarrett Grube in the bottom half of the inning. Grube had an otherwise effective outing, striking out three in 1.1 innings of work. The Ports were unable to get another hit, though they did threaten in the bottom of the 9th.

Nuts closer Scott Beerer came in and got Robnett out on a pop out to third in foul territory to lead off. He then walked Myron Leslie and pinch-hitter Luke Appert. Beerer then got both Everidge and catcher Landon Powell to fly out to rightfielder Frey and the game ended with the ball in the hands of the man that put the Nuts ahead for good.

Ports Debut- Cameron Coughlan made his debut for the Ports as an Athletic. Coughlan played for the Ports when they were the high-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers in 2004. Coughlan started in center and possesses tremendous speed, stealing 153 bases across four levels over the past three years. He was 0-for-3 in his 2006 Ports debut. Coughlan began the season in Midland and had one at-bat.

Defensive Play of the Night: Landon Powell again showed off his strong arm behind the plate, throwing out Sardinha in the top of the 5th as he tried to advance to third on a passed ball.

Nuts Standout: Morales was extremely effective and maintained his velocity well. His curveball is plain filthy. He made it very difficult for hitters when they got to two strikes, using both his fastball and curve as "out" pitches. He will have to work on snapping his curve off consistently because it does get loopy on occasion. He was especially difficult on the top of the order, the Ports 1-3 hitters went 0-for-10 with a walk and two Ks.

Ports Standout: Ford was very impressive in a spot start and though Coach Steverson would like to have all of his starters healthy and in a solid rotation, Ford could prove to be a solid option if another spot start is needed this season. He was a starter for Kane County last season and led the team in wins.

After allowing a single to lead-off hitter Corey Wimberly on the first pitch of the game, Ford allowed only three more hits. It's arguable that Wimberly never would've scored had a balk not been called on what appeared to be a good, left-handed pickoff move made by Ford during the following at-bat.

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