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Oaks even up Cal League Finals09/16/2006 2:49 AM ET
By Alex Gyr / MLB.com
VISALIA, Calif. -- After getting crushed in Game 1 of the California League Finals, the Visalia Oaks exacted revenge on Friday night by using a strategy that had carried them all season long -- outslugging the opposition.
The Oaks scored seven runs in the sixth inning on their way to a 10-5 win over Inland Empire that evened the best-of-5 series at 1-1.
Like the 66ers on Thursday night, Visalia used a big inning to pull away. Entering the decisive sixth, the Oaks trailed, 5-3. By the time the inning was over, Visalia was almost assured of heading to San Bernardino with a split at Recreation Park.
The Oaks sent 12 batters to the plate in the frame and used six hits and one error to fuel the rally. The tying runs came across on Shaun Cumberland's two-run single. He was the fourth of six consecutive Visalia hitters who reached base and scored.
"Most of our games with these guys have been pretty close games," Visalia manager Joe Szekely said. "They have an outstanding pitching staff and we thought they would be tough, hard-fought games. For both teams that won to score double digits is pretty unusual."
Inland Empire starter Andrew Baldwin (1-1) got the first out of the sixth but was pulled after allowing an RBI base hit to Chris Nowak. Baldwin took the loss, surrendering 11 hits and eight runs -- six earned -- in 5 1/3 innings.
Baldwin was coming off his best start of the season, a three-hit, complete-game shutout against Lake Elsinore in Game 2 of the South Division Finals, but looked like a totally different pitcher against the Oaks.
The 66ers jumped ahead early, scoring all five of their runs over the first two innings off starter Brandon Mann. The lefthander lasted just 1 1/3 innings, allowing five runs -- four earned -- on five hits.
Inland Empire got on the board with a pair of runs in the first. The 66ers added three in the second on a pair of walks and two base hits, including one from Brent Johnson, who went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs.
Brett Wayne (1-0) earned the win for Visalia, striking out four and holding Inland Empire to just two hits in 4 2/3 innings. Richard De Los Santos worked the last three frames for his first postseason save.
"You can't say enough about how our bullpen picked us up tonight," Szekely said. "They've been doing an outstanding job all year. Wayne came in gave us some zeros and gave our offense a chance."
Visalia's offensive explosion came without one of their best hitters. Second baseman Josh Asanovich sprained his ankle sliding into third in the bottom of the first and did not return. The extent of the injury is not known.
The series heads to Arrowhead Credit Union Park for the final three games. The 66ers were tough to beat in San Bernardino this season, going 46-24 at home, a franchise record.
"It was very, very, very important for us to win today," Szekely said. "It is so tough to go into someone else's place and win three in a row. If we didn't come away with the win today they would have been very loose, and it would be very difficult for us to win.
"They're really tough at home and we're going to have to continue to play solid baseball."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.