LANCASTER, Calif. - The JetHawks run at back-to-back titles ended early Thursday morning with a 4-3 loss to the Inland Empire 66ers in the deciding Game 5 of the South Division Finals at The Hangar.
The game, which took 15 innings and five hours and 31 minutes to complete, capped a memorable 2013 season that saw the JetHawks finish on top of all of minor league baseball in runs scored, walks, OBP and OPS.
Abel Baker lined a double off the right field fence to score Angel Rosa from first base with two outs in the top of the 15th to give Inland Empire a one-run lead against reliever Tyson Perez (0-1) and the JetHawks.
Brandon Meredith led off the last half of the 15th with a double to put the tying run in scoring position but the next four hitters failed to advance him and pinch-hitter Dan Gulbransen flew out to right field to end the game and the season.
The JetHawks had spoiled bases loaded nobody out opportunities in the 13th and 14th innings to keep the 66ers alive and give them momentum. Chris Epps struck out looking and Joe Sclafani grounded into a 3-2-3 double play to end the threat in the 13th and in the 14th, the JetHawks ran themselves out of a chance to win. M.P. Cokinos hit a popup just beyond the infield dirt in foul ground on the third base side and Delino DeShields, the runner at third, tried to tag up and score. Third baseman Sherman Johnson caught the popup and threw home to get the runner. Andrew Aplin followed with a strike out. Ty Kelley (1-0) pitched out of both jams and picked up the win. Danny Reynolds tossed the 15th for the save.
Inland Empire was unable to take advantage of numerous offensive opportunities of their own. Despite scoring only four runs, the 66ers totaled 22 hits (19 of which were singles) in the game and left 22 runners on base. The JetHawks were unable to retire Inland Empire in order in any of the 15 innings.
The 66ers sent the game to extra innings with runs in the eighth and ninth. Johnson lifted a sacrifice fly off Kenny Long to bring the team within one run in the eighth inning and, down to their final out in the ninth, they scored off closer Travis Ballew to tie. With Zach Borenstein on second base, Brian Hernandez hit a slow liner up the middle that found its way to centerfield for the game's tying hit.
Down 1-0 in the sixth, the JetHawks scored on an M.P. Cokinos hit to right field to tie the game and followed with two runs in the seventh to take the lead. With runners at first and third and two outs, Eric Cendejas reliever starter Kramer Sneed to face DeShields. The JetHawks' leadoff man laid a squeeze bunt down the first base and reached first base safely to allow Meredith to score. Carlos Perdomo followed with an RBI-hit but DeShields was thrown out at home to end the frame.
Kyle Smith, the JetHawks starter, allowed one run on seven hits over five innings of work in his postseason debut.
With the win, Inland Empire advanced to take on the San Jose Giants in the Cal League Championship Series.
Don't miss a moment of the 2014 season as the JetHawks look to return to the Cal League Championship Series. Season tickets and other great ticket packages are on sale now. To order, call (661) 726-5400 or visit jethawks.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.