Lancaster, CA- The Lancaster JetHawks clinched the California League's Southern Division second half title with a 7-6 victory over the Inland Empire 66ers Saturday at The Hangar. The Sixers scored two runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth but stranded the potential tying run on base as Andrew Thome locked down his second save in as many nights for Lancaster (76-62, 41-27).
Inland Empire took a 2-1 lead in the second inning when Zach Houchins doubled to open the frame and Taylor Ward followed by driving a screamer out of the park to left field. It was Ward's ninth homer of the year. Lancaster tied the game in the fourth 2-2 against 66ers' starter Jared Ruxer. Both starters earned no-decisions as Elieser Hernandez allowed two runs in six frames for the JetHawks and Ruxer two runs in five frames for the 66ers.
The JetHawks took advantage in the seventh of four walks and a pair of wild pitches by IE reliever Adam Hofacket (1-2). The righty allowed five earned runs despite allowing just one hit. Inland Empire did not go away however. In the eighth with two outs the 66ers loaded the bases and then got a pair of runs on Ryan Sebra's two-RBI single to make it 7-4.
In the ninth Inland Empire got a lead-off triple from Ayendy Perez who then scored on Angelo Amendolare's RBI triple. Between the two three-baggers Michael Hermosillo was struck out on a close call, as he questioned the call JetHawks catcher Jamie Ritchie got involved and eventually shoved Hermosillo. The benches cleared and Ritchie was ejected. Lancaster then gave the ball to Thome who allowed an RBI ground out to make it 7-6. He walked Houchins with two outs but struck out Ward for his fifth save. Scott Weathersby (6-6) was credited with the win.
Lancaster stole six bases in the game including three by Myles Straw. Ritchie had three hits. Five 66ers had multi-hit games as Inland Empire out-hit the JetHawks for the second consecutive night yet each game resulted in a loss. The 66ers fell to 47-91 on the season and 25-44 in the second half. The 91 losses is the most in franchise history.
The series continues Sunday at 5:05 pm. The contest can be heard live at 66ers.com.