Lancaster, CA - After a phenomenal come from behind 9th inning rally on Friday to win the three game Wild Card playoff series, the Inland Empire 66ers (0-1) were forced to attempt a second consecutive comeback against the Lancaster JetHawks (1-0) on Saturday, and fell a few feet short in the 9th.
Despite its reputation as a hitters' haven, the Hanger in Lancaster was host to a pitchers' duel on Saturday. Inland Empire's Orangel Arenas and Lancaster's Brady Rodgers each put forth quality starts, Arenas doing so against an offense that scored nearly 1,000 runs during the regular season.
Lancaster was on the board first with an M.P. Cokinos leadoff double eventually being cashed in. But Inland Empire was able to strike right back in the 3rd when Gary Mitchell drove Andy Workman across the plate with an RBI double. But despite reaching scoring position with no one out, Mitchell would be stranded and the JetHawks would retake the lead in the 4th on more good situational hitting.
Orangel Arenas would end up throwing seven innings against the JetHawks, allowing just the three runs on five hits and two walks. It might have been more had it not been for centerfielder Andy Workman who made an exceptional diving catch in the 2nd and ran another ball down in the gap in the 7th that saved a run.
Despite Arenas effort, the 66ers offense just could not figure out Lancaster starter Brady Rodgers who threw 7 1/3 innings allowing just the one run on four hits while striking out 11. The bullpen however gave the 66ers a chance despite not allowing a hit. Back-to-back walks in the 9th put the tying run at the plate for Inland Empire, and with two out Andy Workman hit a deep fly ball to the warning track in left field. The winds in Lancaster are well known for assisting batters in padding their home run stats, but Saturday the winds were not strong enough to help Workman in the 9th, and the fly ball was caught on the warning track to end the game.
With the season hanging in the balance, and only three outs to work with the 66ers started the 9th with a single from Gary Mitchell. Angel Rosa took over as a pinch runner at first base. After a sacrifice bunt moved Rosa to scoring position Eric Stamets singled on a line drive to center driving in Rosa for the tying run, and Stamets made it to scoring position on the throw home. Then before the Quakes could settle back in Alex Yarbrough gave the 66ers the walk off win with an RBI single to centerfield for the 7-6 victory.
Inland Empire will try to take some momentum from the well pitched contest into game two on Sunday at the Hanger. First pitch time is at 5 PM and the game can be heard on the 66ers flagship station AM 1050 KCAA. The 66ers will host Lancaster for game three in San Bernardino on Monday, September 9th. For information on tickets to the 66ers playoff game on Monday, September 6th contact the 66ers front office at (909)888-9922.