BY STEPHEN LYNCH Special to The Californian
The early-season dry spell is finally over. The Bakersfield Blaze won its first game of the year on Friday night, toppling the Stockton Ports 6-4 in dramatic fashion at Sam Lynn Ballpark.
Yorman Rodriguez was the hero for the Blaze, smacking an eighth-inning, two-out, bases-loaded, double that scored three runs and brought most of the announced crowd of 1,384 to their feet.
Bakersfield (1-8) was down 4-3 when Rodriguez lined a 3-2 pitch from Stockton reliever Jose Macias to the left field wall.
"I just wanted to hit the ball, put it in play," Rodrigues said via an interpreter. "...I saw (the pitch) was right there and I put a good swing on it. I was really excited to stop on second base with a double."
That hit made a winner out of Mike Dennhardt (1-0), who tossed 1-1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Brooks Pinckard pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn the save, his first of the season.
"It always feels good when you get the first one," Blaze manager Ken Griffey Sr. said of the win. "We've been struggling a little bit but we got some great performances out of the hitters and the pitchers tonight."
The Blaze out-hit Stockton 8-6. Rodriguez and Sammy Diaz had two hits apiece for Bakersfield.
The four pitchers used by the Blaze walked just one batter in allowing a total of eight Ports batters to reach base.
Two batters before Rodriguez lifted the Blaze to victory, Juan Duran drilled a clutch single to keep the rally, which began with a Diaz single, alive.
"There were two great at bats there," Griffey said. "One by Duran and then one by Yorman with the bases loaded was the biggest one, scoring all three runs. It's just a joy for me to watch those kids. Because I've watched them grow up since they were young and now they're starting to develop into ball players."
Down 1-0 after half an inning, the Blaze tied the game in the bottom of the first. Diaz drilled a leadoff double into the right field corner and then later scored on a throwing error by Ports' second baseman Antonio Lamas.
Bakersfield took its first lead an inning later on a Dominic D'Anna sacrifice fly after Rodriguez and Chris Berset hit back-to-back singles.
Both of the Ports (6-3) first two runs came on solo homers. Max Muncy hit his league-leading fifth home run of the season in the first. Two innings later Ports' No. 9 hitter hit a 3-2 offering from Blaze starter James Allen over the centerfield fence.
Other than allowing the two long-balls, Allen was solid. In the fourth inning the former Kansas State All-American got out of a runners on first and third and no outs jam unscathed. After Muncy and Dusty Robinson led off the frame with back-to-back singles, Allen got Josh Whitaker to pop out. He then fanned Ryan Ortiz before inducing Tony Thompson to ground out to shortstop.
Allen, who got a no-decision, was lifted an inning later after Myrio Richard hit a sac fly to draw even with the Blaze.
The 6-foot-1, 197-pound right-hander gave up three earned runs on five hits and no walks while registering two strike outs during his 4 2/3 innings on the mound.
Former Centennial High standout Dusty Robinson went 1-for-3 with a stolen base and run for Stockton, which lost for the first time in three games.
Game three of the four game series at between Stockton and Bakersfield will take place tonight at Sam Lynn Ballpark. The game's first pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.