Adelanto, CA- - The Inland Empire 66ers (23-16) are back in first place in the California League South after a 4-3 win over the High Desert Mavericks (20-20) and a loss by Lancaster Thursday night. The 66ers are now 31 games away from clinching a first half championship for the first time since 2006.
After a slugfest of a series opener Wednesday, Thursday's matchup between the 66ers and Mavs was a much cleaner game. The two pitching staffs kept their offenses in the game throughout led by Mark Sappington on the Inland Empire side. The right hander who leads the league with a 5-0 record picked up his sixth quality start in nine outings for the 66ers in 2013. As impressive as his personal stats is the team's record, a perfect 9-0, when Sappington appears in the game.
Sappington nearly got saddled with the loss on Thursday, but his defense came up big to bail him out. In the 5th inning with two runners in scoring position Ryan Jones made an incredible catch on the warning track in centerfield, tumbling into a barrel roll before raising his glove to show the umpires he had made the catch. The defensive highlight kept it a one run game going to the 6th inning when Brian Hernandez recorded an RBI double to tie the game at two.
Inland Empire would take the lead for good in the 8th inning when Zach Borenstein doubled, his second hit on a night that saw him stretch his hit streak to 10 games, and then scored on a Michael Snyder RBI single. Snyder would later score on a Andy Workman sacrifice fly to make it 4-2 66ers.
In the final two frames the 66ers bullpen stood up to the test of the best offense in the California League in one of its most difficult parks to pitch in. Mike Morin entered the game in the 9th with the tying run at the plate and twice had the innings third out down to his last strike only to see the Mavs hitter record a single and extend the game. The third try was the charm however for Morin. With the tying run in scoring position and the winning run aboard, Morin struck out the final batter with a changeup to end the game, and give himself his fourth save of the season.
Inland Empire will again play the Mavericks in Adelanto on Friday, this time as the first place team in the California League South. First pitch time is scheduled for 7:05 PM and the game can be heard on the 66ers flagship station AM 1050 KCAA. The 66ers return home on Sunday, May 19th to host the San Jose Giants for a Family Funday Sunday presented by Toyota of San Bernardino. For information on 66ers tickets or to schedule your next fun filled group outing, contact the 66ers front office at (909)888-9922.