San Bernardino, CA - The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes staved off elimination and stunned the Inland Empire 66ers, rallying for two in the eighth and then three in the tenth inning, evening the best-of-three series with an 8-5 win on Thursday night at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino.
O'Koyea Dickson went 4-for-4 and Bobby Coyle drove in three runs, as the Quakes and 66ers will now meet on Friday night in San Bernardino, with the winner to advance to the South Division Finals to face the awaiting Lancaster JetHawks.
Down 5-3 in the eighth, the Quakes started their rally against Inland Empire reliever Cam Bedrosian, as Scott Schebler walked with one out, then moved to third on a Darnell Sweeney single. Dickson followed with his fourth hit of the game, an RBI hit to chase home Schebler and move the tying run to third base. Bobby Coyle followed with a bullet off the glove of first baseman Brian Hernandez, who finally collected the ball and stepped on first. His throw to the plate to get Sweeney was late though, as the game was even at 5-5.
The Quakes got stellar work from their bullpen for a second straight night, as Edwin Carl retired 11 of the 12 hitters he faced, finally departing with two outs in the ninth inning and the bases empty in favor of Dan Coulombe, with the game even at 5-5. It took Coulombe (1-0) just two pitches to retire the 2013 Cal League MVP, as Zach Borenstein harmlessly ground out to force extra innings.
Rancho took over in the tenth, as Schebler opened the inning with a single against Ty Kelley (0-1). With Schebler still at first and one away, Kelley misfired to first base and allowed Schebler to advance all the way to third with the go-ahead run. That turned out to be huge, as the Kelley fell behind Dickson in the count and eventually elected to intentionally walk him. Coyle followed with his second hit and third RBI of the game, a grounder to right field to score Schebler, giving the Quakes the lead for good at 6-5. Noel Cuevas then singled home Dickson, but was out at second trying to stretch the hit into a double. With two outs and Coyle at third, Kelley unloaded a wild pitch to put Rancho up by three at 8-5.
Craig Stem retired all three batters he faced in the ninth to earn his first post-season save.
The 66ers and Quakes went back-and-forth early for a second straight night as neither team could hold the lead in the early-going.
Inland Empire got a first-inning run against Matt Shelton, but the saw the Quakes score the next three runs off starter Alex Keudell, giving them a 3-1 lead.
The 66ers used a solo homer by Michael Snyder to highlight a three-run fourth, as they took a 4-3 lead.
They added another in the fifth against reliever Juan Noriega, taking a two-run advantage at 5-3.
Rancho's fate on Friday night will be in the right hand of Lindsey Caughel (4-7), who will toe the rubber for the first time in the post-season. Inland Empire will send Danny Reynolds (11-10) to the mound in the finale, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05pm.
Should the Quakes win Friday's game, they would advance to Lancaster on Saturday for game one of the South Division Finals, then return to LoanMart Field on Monday, to host game three in the best-of-five.
Follow the Quakes at rcquakes.com and live on the radio with Mike Lindskog, on AM 1510 KSPA on Friday night at 6:50pm, to see if Rancho will return home next week. We hope to see you again at LoanMart Field very soon. Go Quakes!