BY BRIAN VANDERBEEK The Modesto Bee
MODESTO -- The Modesto Nuts battled back from a two-run deficit Tuesday with single runs in the fourth and sixth innings, then scratched out a run in the eighth to beat the Bakersfield Blaze, 3-2 and force a decisive Game 5 in the California League North Division Championship Series.
It was the Nuts' fourth straight victory in an elimination game, setting up tonight's decisive 7:05 game in Modesto.
The winner will face the Lancaster JetHawks in the Cal League championship series. The series would start Thursday in Bakersfield should the Blaze win today.
"This is a great team to play on, and I've said that all season," said Delta Cleary Jr., who had three hits and drove in two runs. "Everybody is out here for the right reason -- to be the first Nuts team to win this, and that would be a great experience for all these guys."
With Modesto's 2-3-4 hitters going one-for-13, the rally from a 2-0 deficit had to come from lower in the order, which responded with three one-run rallies.
The last started with one out in the eighth, as Smalling's third single of the game was followed by Cleary's third single. Catcher Dallas Tarleton followed with a line single to right as Smalling sprinted home from second with the eventual game-winner.
Adam Jorgenson got the win after pitching a perfect eighth, with Isaiah Froneberger allowing a two-out single in the ninth before striking out leadoff hitter Theo Bowe to notch the save.
Blaze starter Daniel Renken allowed one run on five hits over five innings, striking out five and walking one. Bakersfield led 2-0 when he departed, setting the stage for Modesto's comeback against Michael Dennhardt (0-1).
The Blaze scored both its runs in the Ryan Wright and Travis Mattair opened with walks, and Steve Selsky reached on a fielder's choice. Dominic D'Anna followed with a two-run single.
Bowe was 2-for-5 and D'Anna finished 2-for-3.