Valley Press Staff Writer
LANCASTER — The JetHawks waited until the eighth inning to use their quarters on the merry-go-round Tuesday night.
Of course, it helped that the California League’s worst team was operating the ride.
Led by a monster night from outfielder Jon Kemmer, Lancaster rallied with five late runs to beat Modesto 11-8 and finish off a four-game sweep of the hapless Nuts.
“They always say that hitting is contagious,” said Kemmer, who homered twice and drove in six runs. “Once you get one, it’s hard not to keep it rolling.
“It’s a blast to go from losing to being up … the morale changes 180 degrees.”
The JetHawks won for the fourth straight night and improved to 60-42. Lancaster became the first team in the Cal League to reach the 60-win mark.
Modesto, meanwhile, continued its miserable season. The Nuts are now 31-71 and on pace to win just 42 games. By comparison, the JetHawks won 44 games in the first half alone.
“We did what we were supposed to do against a team that doesn’t play well,” said JetHawks manager Rodney Linares.
Lancaster grabbed the win by rallying for the second straight night.
Down 7-6 in the eighth, Kemmer plated Rio Ruiz on an RBI single on the ninth pitch of his one-out at-bat. Although the outfielder had already homered twice, he wasn’t thinking about another long ball.
“Absolutely not,” Kemmer said. “Every time you think about a home run you never do it.
“I was just trying to get something through and score the runner.”
Danry Vasquez then followed with a run-scoring single that squeaked under the glove of Modesto second baseman Juan Ciriaco.
“I was looking to put the ball in play,” Vasquez said. “I hit in the hole and he missed it.
“We’re just happy to be winning games.”
Lancaster piled on three more runs as Tyler White scored on a passed ball and Jack Mayfield and Chan-Jong Moon hit RBI doubles.
Patrick Christensen earned the win out of the bullpen by throwing three innings of one-run ball to notch his first win of the season.
“I felt like my stuff was working pretty well,” Christensen said. “It’s always nice to pick (the first win) up.
“It’s a little bit fluky coming out of the bullpen because you never know when they’re going to come.”
Kemmer entered the game with two homers and six RBIs but doubled his stats.
The outfielder hit a two-run shot in the second and later blasted a three-run homer in the sixth that tied the game at 6. Kemmer scratched his head when asked to recall such a memorable offensive output.
“I couldn’t even tell you off the top of my head,” Kemmer said with a laugh. “It’s definitely been a while.”
Said Linares: “He hit the crap out of those two balls. The second one was pretty impressive.”
Lancaster starter Zach Morton labored through five innings of work. The righty gave up seven hits and six runs (four earned) while walking one.
Morton allowed two runs in the opening frame on a balk and run-scoring single before giving up two more in the second on a solo homer and RBI single.
With Modesto clinging to a one-run lead in the fifth, Morton allowed a two-run homer with two outs after Ruiz committed an error. Both runs were unearned against Morton.
The JetHawks are off today and will now head to Stockton for a four-game series. The Ports swept Lancaster earlier this month in a three-game set at The Hangar.
“We didn’t play well last time,” Linares said. “You can’t do that against a good team.”
Mark Appel will start Thursday for the JetHawks.