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Visalia dispatches defending Cal champs
09/14/2006 1:47 AM ET
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Visalia took advantage of four San Jose errors to claim a 5-2 victory in Game 5 of the California League North Division Finals on Wednesday.

The Oaks face Inland Empire in the best-of-5 championship series, beginning Thursday.

San Jose reliever Alfredo Simon made throwing errors on back-to-back plays in the sixth inning, contributing to a two-run rally that put the Oaks on top, 3-2.

With runners on first and second, Simon misplayed a bunt, allowing a run to score from second. On the ensuing play, the 25-year-old right-hander attempted a pickoff at second base, but threw the ball into center field. Hunter Vick followed with a sacrifice fly that plated the go-ahead run.

"San Jose normally secures the ball pretty well," Visalia manager Joe Szekely said. "We were fortunate to be able to take advantage."

The Oaks added a pair of runs off reliever Justin Hedrick in the seventh on Josh Arhart's two-run double to left-center field, giving Visalia a 5-2 lead. Hedrick had not allowed a hit in 2 2/3 postseason innings entering the game.

San Jose brought the tying run to the plate in the final two innings, but failed to capitalize. The Giants put the first two hitters on base with a pair of singles in the eighth, but Richard De Los Santos got Julio Cordido to bounce into a double play and struck out Mark Minicozzi to end the threat.

In the ninth, with runners on first and second and a Municipal Stadium crowd of 2,249 behind the Giants' offense, Visalia closer Nick Debarr retired Pat Dobson and John Bowker to end the game and the series.

"Both [De Los Santos and Debarr] did an outstanding job for us tonight, as they have all season," Szekely said. "They responded and did great things for us."

Starter Derek Feldkamp got the win, improving on a difficult first postseason outing by yielding one run on four hits over five innings. He took a no-decision in Game 3 of the mini-series against Stockton after allowing four runs in five innings.

The lone run off Feldkamp came in the fourth, when Brian Horwitz singled in Bowker to tie the game, 1-1. Horwitz was making his third start for the Giants since rejoining San Jose from Double-A Connecticut before Game 3 of this series.

The Oaks had a chance to break the game open early after getting four runners on base over the first two innings. But San Jose starter Brooks McNiven battled through both jams without allowing a run. He allowed one run in five innings, but did not factor into the decision.

The Oaks moved to 3-0 this postseason when facing elimination. They trailed Stockton in the mini-series, 1-0, but won two straight to advance.

"With these guys, every time their backs have been against the wall, they've responded," Szekely said. "They did it in the first round, and they did it again tonight. You can't say enough about the way they've responded when the going gets tough."

The Oaks return home to Recreation Park for Game 1 of the championship series, slated to begin at 9:35 p.m. ET on Thursday. The Oaks are appearing in their first championship series since 2000 and are looking for their first California League crown since 1978.

"We have a quick turnaround tomorrow, but we haven't done anything easy all postseason," Szekely said. "We haven't had any days off -- we've had chances to, but for some reason we haven't been able to do it. I guess this team just likes to do things the hard way."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.