In front of a jumbo crowd on the final Fireworks Friday of the season, the Bakersfield Blaze and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes exchanged jabs and roundhouse punches right up until the final out was recorded, with the Quakes using a three-run top of the 9th to propel their club to a narrow 8-7 win.
Most of the action came late in the game, as the starters were solid, if unspectacular, in the early parts. Josh Smith got the nod for the Blaze, and the kid out of Margate, Florida went five innings, allowing just two runs on four hits. The Quakes made Smith work hard in two separate frames, which cut his outing shorter than usual, but as is often the case, Smith kept the team in the game.
And, despite all the late drama, the Blaze came within five outs of making a winner out of Josh. JonMichael Redding, the Quakes starter, went 5.2 frames, allowing three runs, though only one of those tallies was earned, and after six innings, the Blaze led, 3-2.
After a scoreless 7th, the game took a dramatic turn. Andrew Brackman (L, 1-3) was called upon to pitch the 8th and promptly walked the leadoff man, before a groundout and an error put runners at the corners with only one out. A stolen base moved two into scoring position, and Austin Gallagher sliced a soft liner into centerfield to score both, putting Rancho on top, 4-3. The Quakes added another run in the inning on a Pedro Baez base hit, and went into the bottom half up 5-3.
But we were far from over. The Blaze mounted another rally, scoring a pair of unearned runs off the Quakes back end of the pen, Yimi Garcia and Eric Eadington (W, 2-1), and the game went into the 9th tied at 5.
Brackman was asked to continue for the Blaze, but the tall righty had little left in the tank after the tough 8th. A one-out double was followed by another walk and a two-run double, and the Quakes retook the lead, 7-5. After the Blaze threw out a runner at third to clear the bases, Chris Jacobs pinch hit and smashed a solo shot to left, the run that would end up deciding the game.
In the bottom of the 9th, the Blaze nearly came back again. Two doubles and a bloop single brought the Blaze to within 8-7, but Stephen Hunt popped a fly down the leftfield line, and Rancho shortstop Alexis Aguilar made a fine running catch to end the madness.
The loss moves the Blaze back to just a game over 500 on the season, though the postseason is all but set, and the remaining games will have little impact on the teams and venues in the north.
The series with the Dodgers affiliate continues Saturday through Monday, finishing off the regular season, and starts back up Saturday at 7:15pm with Daniel Renken taking on Ryan Acosta on Hideo Gnomo Lawn Ornament Giveaway Night, with the first 500 fans through the gate getting the prize!
Can't make it? Listen LIVE on radio or internet to the Saturday Night Game of the Week, with Dan Besbris calling all the action. The broadcast begins at 7:05pm.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.