San Bernardino, CA- The Inland Empire 66ers rode the bat of Eric Aguilera, arm of Michael Smith and a five-run sixth inning on Monday at San Manuel Stadium in a 7-4 defeat of the San Jose Giants. The 66ers can go for a series victory in the four-game set on Tuesday.
Inland Empire (24-25) starter Sean Newcomb allowed three runs through his first two-plus innings of work, the final run coming on an RBI double by Giant Hunter Cole with no outs in the third. Newcomb then retired the next nine batters he faced in succession. He finished with five innings of work, three earned runs, four hits allowed, two walks and eight K's.
The sixth inning proved to be the lynchpin of the contest as the Giants were only able to score one run despite taking four walks in the frame. The RBI walk to Ty Ross ran the lead to 4-1 San Jose (21-30), but 66ers reliever Michael Smith came in with one out and got an infield fly and strike out to limit the damage. Smith would end up throwing 2.2 innings of scoreless baseball allowing just one hit and fanning two.
The Sixers answered in the bottom of the sixth with one out as Bo Way tripled and Eric Aguilera followed with an RBI double. That chased SJ starter Andrew Lennhouts. Giants reliever Jeff Soptic came in and unlike the Sixers in the top of the inning, his wildness hurt San Jose badly. After getting a quick second out of the frame, Soptic (0-2) walked the next three men he faced including a RBI walk to Stephen McGee. Tyler Palmer, who already had an RBI single in the game then bounced roller behind second base. Giants 2B Austin Slater made a fine effort to field and throw to first but Palmer beat the play, Kody Eaves scored from third to tie the game 4-4 and Kaleb Cowart dashed for home safely all the way from second. The attempt to cut down Cowart at the plate was thrown away and it allowed McGee to score from first making it 6-4.
Aguilera would add an insurance run in the seventh with a solo homer, his seventh of the season. He finished the game with two doubles and a homer. He has now hit safely in 13 straight games and has a team best 39 RBI. Way, Eaves and Palmer all had two hits. Palmer knocked in three RBI.
Smith earned the win and improved to 5-0 on the year. Greg Mahle had three K's in the ninth to earn his eighth save for Inland Empire.
The series concludes on Tuesday at 7:05 pm. It can be heard live at 66ers.com.