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San Jose repeats in Cal League09/21/2010 5:01 AM ET
By Ashley Marshall / Special to MLB.com
When San Jose's Juan Perez dug in at the plate in the top of the 10th inning of Monday's decisive Cal League Finals Game 5, he knew he was owed a hit.
But arguably his worst at-bat of the entire night turned into a triple and led to the winning run that gave the Giants a 7-6 victory over the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes to seal their second straight championship.
San Jose's right fielder had seen the ball well all night, but he had little to show for his efforts after making five flyball outs despite making solid contact in each at-bat.
With one out in the 10th, Perez was fooled on a first-pitch fastball at the letters. Unable to hold up, the California League All-Star made enough contact with the ball to shoot it past the first baseman and into right field. When right fielder Angel Castillo failed to come up with the ball cleanly, Perez turned on the jets and legged out a triple. He scored the go-ahead run two batters later when Charlie Culberson hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded.
"I was just trying to get on base," said Perez, who sported a team-low .162 average throughout the playoffs. "But it was almost a check-swing down the first-base line and that was what got something going.
"You dream of hitting a walk-off home run or scoring the winning run, but really you just want to do what you can to help the team. I just wanted to get on base or hit a ground ball. I had seen the ball well, but I had also popped it up five times in a row."
The Class A Advanced affiliate of the San Francisco Giants twice led in the best-of-5 series, at 1-0 and then 2-1, but the Quakes pulled them back both times to force a single-game shootout.
Rancho Cucamonga once again rallied to make life difficult for San Jose, which won back-to-back crowns for the first time in franchise history.
Monday's finale was the fifth time the Giants had played in a one-game decider for the championship, winning in 2005 and '07 and losing in 1996 and '99 .
San Jose posted a 45-25 first-half record to win the North Division and set the best overall record in the North Division for the third straight season.
Brandon Crawford slugged his second homer of the postseason in the second inning in support of Justin Fitzgerald, who was starting on three days' rest.
With the game tied, reliever Jason Stoffel came into the game with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth and got out of the jam. Stoffel, the fifth pitcher to come out of the Giants' pen, remained in the game, tossing two more shutout innings to nail down the title.
"This was just a classic game," manager Brian Harper said. "If this was Major League Baseball, they'd be showing this game on ESPN Classics right now. It was a great game and it was unfortunate that one team had to lose.
"Perez struggled a bit in the playoffs. [His triple] was almost a fluke hit. I don't know if it was lucky or whatever, but then they walked the bases loaded, Culberson had the sac fly and Stoffel came in and threw two perfect shutout innings."
In winning the championship for the 11th time in team history and the fourth time in the past six years, the Giants became the first Cal team to repeat since the San Bernardino Stampede accomplished the feat in 1999 and 2000.
"This means a lot to the whole team," former 13th-rounder Perez said. "When you get a chance to win a championship, you have to take it because the chance doesn't happen too often."
Perez said his feet barely touched the ground as he raced in from the outfield to join the celebration in front of home plate.
"I felt like I was flying towards the mound," he said. "It felt like I was walking on air."