Category Archives: ROAD TRIPS


IE 66ersThe Inland Empire 66ers got a big night from C Michael Strentz and ended a five-game losing streak with a 6-4 win over the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes at LoanMart Field Saturday night. Strentz had a homer and two doubles to pace Inland Empire’s 9-hit attack.

The home Quakes, with a sold-out crowd of 4,731 looking on, got on the board in the bottom of the first inning. LF Johan Mieses led off with a double and eventually came around to score on an RBI groundout by SS Erisbel Arruebarrena.

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IMG_5338Saturday night in Rancho Cucamonga was a perfect night for baseball. Great weather, post-game fireworks and a Corey Seager bobblehead giveaway made for a sold out ballpark. MLBers Scott Van Slyke and Joel Peralta were in Quakes uniforms with tons of Dodger blue on display in the stands.

But the visiting Stockton Ports weren’t interested in seeing the South Division leading Quakes inch any closer to a first-half title. Stockton broke out the bats and put up 14 runs on 14 hits, knocking around seven Rancho Cucamonga pitchers in the process. The final score was 14-2 and the Quakes still have some work to do to clinch a playoff berth.

IMG_5343Dodgers #9 prospect Zack Bird started for Rancho and made it through a scoreless first inning, 1-2-3. In the bottom of the first, Van Slyke doubled down the right-field line, 1B Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers’ #17 prospect, doubled him in, and after a Tyler Olge double, 3B Paul  Hoenecke brought Bellinger home on a sacrifice fly. 2-0 Rancho Cucamonga.

Stockton got on the board with a single run in the second inning, a long one for Bird, who threw 27 pitches. It was 2-1 Quakes, but that was the beginning of 14 unanswered runs to be scored by the Ports.

A six-run fourth inning was Bird’s undoing as he walked the first two hitters, gave up back-to-back doubles and walked another before being lifted. After 3 2/3 innings, Bird had given up six runs (five earned), on four hits and four walks. He took the loss and his record now sits at 2-3.

The Stockton barrage was led by 3B Matt Chapman, the Oakland A’s #3 prospect, with three hits, two doubles, three runs scored and an RBI. CF Matt Vertigan had three hits including a double and scored twice while driving in two.

Ports starter RHP Raul Alcantara, the A’s #9 prospect, didn’t make it out of the third inning, allowing 2 earned runs on five hits and two walks over 2 1/3. RHP Lou Trivino put a stop to the Rancho Cucamonga offense and was impressive for 4 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out five to earn the win.

Van Slyke ended up going 1-for-4 with the double as the DH. Peralta came on in the fifth inning and had a 25-pitch limit. It didn’t go well for the MLB veteran as he gave up two hits and a run while facing four batters. His first pitch was laced by Hoenecke into the left-field corner for a double.

Tough result for the boisterous home crowd of 4,872. With the first half winding down, Rancho Cucamonga has a real threat on its heels in the charging Lancaster Jethawks. With the Visalia Rawhide wrapping up the North Division on this night, the South race will be fun to watch this coming week.

All Photos: Steve Cummings/




Photo: Steve Cummings/

Photo: Steve Cummings/

My first chance to see the sizzling Visalia Rawhide this year made clear how strong the team is and why they have a double-digit lead in the standings.  A 13-hit attack including six doubles and a triple produced eight runs, which were more than enough for starter John Omahen as the Rawhide rolled to an 8-1 victory over the Modesto Nuts.  A Rawhide Ballpark crowd of 2,534 made plenty of noise as the home team scored in four of eight turns at bat.

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First roadie of the year for me, believe it or not. Memorial Day weekend was my first chance to get out there and I made it to Bakersfield for a noon Cal League tilt between the Blaze and the High Desert Mavericks. The Blaze came into the game at the bottom of the North division but the Mavericks were closing in on the slumping Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and looking for their third straight win.

The pitching matchup featured righty Dan Altavilla for the homestanding Blaze against lefty Luis Parra of the Mavs. Altavilla entered the season as the Mariners’ #19 organizational prospect, per Baseball America and #18 in’s rankings.

Altavilla started strong, setting down the first six HD batters with three K’s. In the bottom of the first, Blaze 2B Tim Lopes put the home team ahead with a solo homer and it stayed 1-0 until the fourth inning.

Photo: Steve Cummings/

HD Mavs’ Ryan Cordell. Photo: Steve Cumming/

That’s when the Texas Rangers’ #11/12 prospect Ryan Cordell led off with a triple and came home on a Royce Bolinger single to tie the score. After the quick first two innings, Altavilla wobbled a bit, walking the first two hitters in the third before stranding both runners, then allowing the fourth-inning triple to Cordell followed by an HBP and the single to Bolinger. But he was able to limit the damage and the low-scoring game continued into the seventh.

Altavilla was tossing a gem, having surrendered just the one run on two hits with two walks and six strikeouts and he came out strong for the seventh frame. The first two batters both grounded out to second base and, nearing 100 pitches, Altavilla faced 2B Edwin Garcia. A long, eight-pitch at bat ended with Garcia breaking the tie with a homer, 2-1 Mavs. It was the last batter for Altavilla.

It looked like the Blaze evened the score in the bottom of the seventh when LF Burt Reynolds singled, stole second and then came around, two outs later, on a Martin Peguero single to center. Cordell launched a perfect throw to the plate and Reynolds appeared to get in just ahead of C Alex Burg’s tag, but homeplate umpire Adrian Gonzalez signaled the third out to end the inning.

The Blaze got the job done the next inning on an Ian Miller double, a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly to tie it at 2. After nine it was still tied, so to extras they went.

The Mavericks played small-ball in the top of the 10th, scoring on a single, a wild pitch and two sacrifices. The Blaze answered in the bottom of the inning with C Carlton Tanabe’s first  homer of the season.

But High Desert scored again in the top of the 11th with a two-out rally and they kept the home team off the board in the bottom of the frame to seal the win.

The victory for the Mavericks, combined with another Rancho Cucamonga loss in San Jose, pulled High Desert to within a game of first place.

The low-scoring pitcher’s duel was great to watch, with more tension inning-to-inning than most Cal League games. Every AB was crucial from the very beginning and both sides had run-ins with the umpiring crew. HD pitching coach Steve Mintz was tossed in the first inning after arguing that homeplate umpire Gonzalez’ strike zone to the first two hitters looked to be quite large. And Lopes was ejected after a called third strike in the bottom of the 10th.

The announced crowd of 452 didn’t look to be that big and I have to think a town the size of Bakersfield should do better for a Sunday day game, even if it is a holiday weekend. Sam Lynn Ballpark is famously outdated, yeah, yeah, I know. But this is good baseball at the advanced A-level, not rookie ball, short-season, etc. The staff at Sam Lynn is perfect in the hospitality department and on this warm, sunny day, it was nice to see the shaded picnic table area down the left field line. All of the other seats are in direct sunlight and for a day game, that can be rough.

Photo: Steve Cummings/

Photo: Steve Cummings/

I love Sam Lynn Ballpark, though I know it’s tough on the business of the team. The sight lines are unique, to say the least with the dugouts way up the lines. The clubs send several batters to the on-deck circle and if you sit nearby, in the seats that are below field-level, you can get some great insight as they converse about the pitching they’re facing.

All that makes for a great day at the yard. Last time I made it to Bako was 4th of July last year. The place was packed. The locals are clearly aware of the team and baseball goes way, way back in this very park. The average attendance this year, per the Cal League webpage, is 839 per game. That makes the Blaze the only team in the league drawing less than 1,300. There are 3,500 permanent seats, per Wikipedia. That’s not good enough for a community of almost 350,000.

But I’ll be back, you can be sure of that.


IMG_4890Saturday  night I made it up to Stockton to see the Ports host the Modesto Nuts, a matchup of teams at the opposite ends of the North division standings. The game was a one-sided affair, with the first-place Stockton club swinging hot bats while starter Jake Sanchez went seven strong innings to lead the Ports to a 13-1 win.

It’s always good to see a game at Banner Island Ballpark and on this visit the weather was perfect for a night of California League baseball. The crowd didn’t look to be as big as the announced 3,012, and it was smaller than my previous trips there. But the home team didn’t disappoint as they raced to an easy win.

IMG_4876The Stockton club has Oakland’s top three prospects on its roster, SS Daniel Robertson, 1B Matt Olson and 3B Renato Nunez, as well as #18 (Ryon Healy) and #20 (Jaycob Brugman). It’s a pretty potent offense for the Ports and the club banged out a season-high 20 hits while putting up the 13 runs. The 1-2-3 hitters, Robertson, Healy and Olson, combined to go 10-for-15 with six RBIs and six runs scored.

As if that wasn’t enough, C Beau Taylor went 4-for-5 with a double, a homer and four RBIs. And the bottom of the order came through as well. The No. 8 and No. 9 hitters, 2B Wade Kirkland and CF Zeke DeVoss, went a combined 4-for-8 with five runs scored.

It made for a rough night for Modesto’s pitchers. Starter Ben Alsup went 4 1/3 and allowed 10 hits and six earned runs. The relief corp didn’t fare much better as Shayne Broyles, Alving Mejias and Peter Tago allowed seven more runs to score, six of them earned.

With Stockton’s offense in high gear, starter Jake Sanchez allowed just one earned run while walking one and striking out 12 over seven innings. He pitched out of danger in the first, allowing a single and a walk and throwing two wild pitches before stranding runners at second and third.

Then he allowed a solo homer to the Nuts’ Dean Espy in the second inning that made it a 2-1 ballgame. But the next 11 Modesto batters went down in order and the Ports started pulling away. A three-run fourth inning for Stockton was the beginning of five-straight innings of scoring while the Nuts never again dented the scoreboard.

For the Nuts, the top three hitters in the batting order had one hit apiece in addition to Espy’s homer, and that was it for the offense. Stockton earned its 70th win of the season, overall, while Modesto lost for the 84th time.


IMG_4887A walk around Banner Island Ballpark is as enjoyable as any other Cal League park, with the right-field grass area sitting in front of the beautiful river setting. Stockton’s baseball past is on display with a giant banner on the first-base side showing four recent players who have gone “from Stockton to Oakland.” There is also a listing of all former Stockton players to make the majors in the concourse under the main grandstand.

There looks to be more on the way from this current roster.  Olson (34) and Nunez (29) are the top two homerun hitters in the league while Olson has a .401 OBP and has drawn 101 walks. Robertson took over the position of the organization’s top overall prospect when SS Addison Russell was dealt to the Cubs last month in the trade that brought Jeff Samardzija to the A’s. So there appears to be plenty of talent still in the pipeline.



All photos: Steve Cummings/


IMG_4752Visalia sits just about dead-center of the sprawling California League, a couple of hundred miles south and east of San Jose and about 250 miles north of Lake Elsinore. Saturday night I took the trip down Hwy 99 to Recreation Park to see the Rawhide take on the Lake Elsinore Storm and it was a true California League game on the field. The weather couldn’t have been better and the park was jammed with 2,623 fans who saw a real fireworks show, early and late.

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IMG_4745Saturday night I found my way down to Rancho Cucamonga for a matchup between the Quakes and the first-place Lake Elsinore Storm. A night after a Yasiel Puig bobblehead giveaway packed LoanMart Field, it was Star Wars night with after-game fireworks and 4,463 fans had the place rocking again.

I wanted to get a good look at the Dodgers’ top organizational prospect SS Corey Seager as well as Padres’ #5 prospect Hunter Renfroe. Seager is all over the Cal League offensive leaderboards, as expected, and Renfroe is having a solid year at hiA after being taken 13th overall in last year’s First-Year Player Draft.

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IMG_4662This past Saturday night was my first trip of the season up to Modesto with the Nuts taking on the first-place Bakersfield Blaze. The home team had dropped the opener, 8-4, and had Matt Flemer going against Bakersfield’s Wandy Peralta to try to even the series.

Modesto is second in the Cal League in average attendance, behind only Lake Elsinore, and the fans came out for this one 3,923 strong. There was a cold wind as the sun went down but John Thurman Field was mostly full for this matchup of clubs at the opposite ends of the North division standings. Continue reading


IMG_4582On Saturday night I made my first trip to Lancaster to see a first-place showdown between the Jethawks and the High Desert Mavericks at The Hangar. The visiting Mavericks had won the first two games of the series to take a one-game lead in the South, including a 9-0 romp on Friday night.

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