Rancho Cucamonga, CA - The Inland Empire 66ers grabbed a 1-0 series-lead on Wednesday night, taking game one in the best-of-three series, with a 6-3 win over the Quakes at LoanMart Field.
Inland Empire scored six times over the first three innings, then held off Rancho in the ninth inning to force the Quakes to win two straight games on the road, in order to advance to meet the awaiting Lancaster JetHawks.
Trailing by three in the ninth, the Quakes got a one-out rally going against 66ers' closer R.J. Alvarez. Chris Jacobs doubled down the right-field line, before Pratt Maynard walked to bring the tying run to the plate. Casio Grider then singled to left field, loading the bases for Scott Schebler. Rancho's regular season home run leader went down swinging for the second out though. Alvarez held on as he then fanned Darnell Sweeney to end the game and earn the save.
The Quakes and 66ers traded punches early, as there were multiple lead changes in the first three innings.
Inland Empire scored two in the first against Quakes' starter JonMichael Redding, but Rancho rebounded to tie the game in the bottom of the inning.
Sweeney had an RBI groundout to put the Quakes on the board, before O'Koyea Dickson followed with an RBI single, scoring Scott Schebler to make it 2-2.
The Quakes took their only lead of the night in the second, as Corey Seager singled and later scored on Schebler's second hit of the night, putting Ranch up, 3-2.
The 66ers capitalized on poor Quakes' defense throughout the first few innings, taking advantage of an error and an additional mistake in the field, scoring four times and chasing Redding (0-1) in the third. Abel Baker's two-run double broke a 3-3 tie and put Inland Empire up for good at 5-3.
Inland Empire starter Drew Rucinsky settled down after a rough start. Rucinsky (1-0) used a double-play ball to end the third and then proceeded to retire the final 13 men he faced, as Rancho didn't reach base again until a one-out single in the eighth by Dickson.
The Quakes' bullpen overachieved on Wednesday night, as Eric Eadington and Raydel Sanchez each fired three innings of scoreless relief, while Dan Coulombe worked a 1-2-3 ninth to keep the Quakes in the game.
Rancho's offense managed nine hits on the night, but had five of those over the first two innings.
On Thursday night, the Quakes will be playing for their playoff lives, as they travel to San Bernardino for game two of the best-of-three series. Matt Shelton (5-2 regular season) will take on Alex Keudell (5-1 regular season) in game two from San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino at 7:05pm. If necessary, game three will be on Friday night, also in San Bernardino.
Follow the Quakes at rcquakes.com and live on the radio with Mike Lindskog, on AM 1510 KSPA, to see if Rancho will return home next week to face Lancaster in the South Division Finals. We hope to see you again at LoanMart Field on very soon. Go Quakes!