MODESTO, CA - The JetHawks begin their final step towards the franchise's first title as they take on the Modesto Nuts in the Cal League Championship Series. Game 1 is set for 7:05 pm on Thursday night at John Thurman Field in Modesto.
Lancaster and Modesto faced off in the 2004 finals. The then Modesto A's, an Oakland affiliate, beat the JetHawks, then an Arizona affiliate, in five games. Modesto became a Colorado affiliate in 2005 and has not played for a title since. The JetHawks made their only other appearance in the finals in 2008 where they lost to the Stockton Ports in four games as an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
When the team's matched up in 2004, the games were filled with future big leaguers. Carlos Quentin, Conor Jackson, Dan Uggla suited up for the JetHawks while Modesto featured Andre Ethier, Nelson Cruz and Brad Ziegler.
This year the rosters are filled with some of the Cal League's top prospects. Delino DeShields Jr., who was second in all of minor league baseball with 101 steals this season, an Astros minor league record, will be the table-setter for Lancaster's lineup while Erik Castro (27 homers and 108 RBIs this season) and Domingo Santana (97 RBIs) will be tasked with driving in the runs. Telvin Nash, who hit 29 regular season homers, is always a threat to hit one out.
Chris Epps, who was recalled from Lexington just before the series, ranks second in the Cal League with a .478 postseason batting average and Jonathan Meyer is tied for second with seven RBIs.
Modesto is led by Cal League Pitcher of the Year Christian Bergman and former first round pick Tyler Matzek. Bergman, who finished the regular season with a league-leading 16 wins, has a 1.50 ERA in two playoff starts and a league-high 14 strikeouts in 12 innings. Matzek is 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in two starts but probably won't throw unless the series goes to a deciding fifth game.
Offensively, the Nuts have hit 10 postseason homers, more than any other team. The usually light-hitting shortstop Joey Wong is hitting .417 with two homers (hit one in regular season). Rafael Ortega and Tim Smalling have also hit two homers in the playoffs.
The JetHawks faced Lake Elsinore and the Nuts faced San Jose in this year's Mini-Series. Both teams lost their opening game but won Games 2 and 3 at home to advance to the Division Finals. Lancaster took care of High Desert in four games and Modesto, after falling behind 2-0, won three straight games to take the series from Bakersfield.
David Martinez (9-5, 4.38) and Kennil Gomez (4-5, 5.97) will match up in Game 1. Blair Walters and Juan Gonzalez are slated for Game 2. Managers Rodney Linares and Lenn Sakata have not named their starters beyond Game 2.
The Best of 5 series will head to The Hangar for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary). Saturday and Monday night's games will start at 7:00 pm and Sunday will be a playoff matinee at 5:00 pm. Tickets for all three games are on sale now. For more information please contact the JetHawks box office at (661) 726-5400.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.