ADELANTO • Patrick Brady kept the High Desert Mavericks' playoff hopes alive for just a little bit longer. Less than an hour later, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes ended them.
Brady hit a game-winning home run in the bottom of the seventh inning, lifting the Mavs to an 8-7 win in the second half of a doubleheader against the Lake Elsinore Storm on Sunday. The Storm won the first game 11-1.
The Mavericks (63-76, 29-40 second half) entered the bottom of the seventh - California League doubleheaders are scheduled for seven innings each - trailing 7-6, but Jamal Austin singled to lead off the frame, putting the tying run on base.
Needing a win to have any shot at the playoffs, Brady connected off Storm reliever Dennis O'Grady for a walk-off, two-run homer to left-center field. The win sent the Mavs into the clubhouse to follow the Lancaster-Rancho Cucamonga game, with High Desert needing a Quakes loss to stay alive. But the Quakes pulled off their own walk-off win when Chris O'Brien hit an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th for a 2-1 victory.
"(O'Grady) was looking for a bunt," Brady said. "I put a good swing on it and surprised him. We've been playing hard all season and it feels good to end the day on a win."
The Mavericks have struggled in the second half of the season, with the roster becoming a revolving door of players being sent to the Double-A Jackson Generals and called up from the Single-A Clinton LumberKings.
High Desert went 34-36 in the first half and was three games ahead of Rancho Cucamonga at the All-Star break. A trio of Mavericks earned a spot in the California-Carolina League All-Star Game in June, with shortstop Chris Taylor, first baseman Ji-Man Choi and outfielder Jabari Blash all representing High Desert.
All three first-half All-Stars have moved up in the Seattle Mariners organization since the All-Star break. Choi is now one step away from the major leagues, playing at Triple-A Tacoma, while Taylor and Blash are now starring for Jackson at Double-A.
Center fielder Jamal Austin, right fielder Kevin Rivers and second baseman Anthony Phillips are the only players on the roster to have been with High Desert for at least 100 games this season. Dan Paolini played 92 games for the Mavs before being called up to Jackson on August 16.
High Desert has had 47 different players come through the organization this season, including 23 pitchers. Starting pitchers Cameron Hobson and Trevor Miller were both called up from High Desert to Jackson in the second half, along with closer Dominic Leone.
With the roster in a state of constant turnover, High Desert has the worst record (29-40) in the South Division in the second half. After going 21-14 at home in the first half, the Mavericks have struggled to a 14-20 mark at Stater Bros. Stadium in the second half.
The Mavericks came into Sunday's doubleheader 1.5 games behind Rancho Cucamonga for the final playoff spot in the South Division. The Storm put a serious dent in High Desert's playoff hopes with a blowout win in Game 1 of the twinbill.
Lake Elsinore starting pitcher Justin Hancock pitched six innings, giving up one earned runs on eight hits with four walks. The Mavs' lone run came on an RBI single from Guillermo Pimentel in the bottom of the first.
The Storm scored 11 unanswered runs to end the game, putting up three runs in the third inning and four more in the fourth. High Desert starting pitcher Matt Anderson lasted 3 1-3 innings, giving up seven earned runs on eight hits and three walks.
The Mavericks end the season Monday at 1 p.m. against the Storm at Stater Bros. Stadium.
"I want to see some competitive, good baseball," Mavs manager Jim Horner said. "You just have to come out and compete (Monday)."
Story courtesy of the Daily Press