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Surkamp, Giants finish Cal League sweep

Fans 12 over eight innings en route to second title in three years
September 20, 2009
Eric Surkamp overcame a rocky start and struck out 12 over eight innings Saturday as the San Jose Giants won the California League championship with a 4-3 victory over the High Desert Mavericks.

Surkamp, San Francisco's sixth-round pick in 2008, surrendered three runs over the first two innings but settled down and retired 13 consecutive batters into the sixth.

"Eric was tremendous. He struggled early on and he had a few choices -- he could have quit or he could buckle down," Giants manager Andy Skeels said. "It was a gutsy performance. That's the sign of a champion and a quality player."

Surkamp (1-1) was promoted to San Jose on Sept. 8 after leading Class A Augusta with 11 wins. He got the start in Game 3 of the North Division Finals and gave up six runs in two innings.

"When I finally got that call, I was excited to help the team win a championship," Surkamp said. "Nothing can beat this. I'll remember this for the rest of my life."

Surkamp's former Augusta teammate, Francisco Peguero, put the Giants on the board in the third inning with an RBI single. Described by his manager as a "five-tool player," Peguero batted .387 in the playoffs and was named California League Championship Series MVP.

The Giants added single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth, taking the lead in the sixth on reliever Edward Paredes' wild third strike with the bases loaded. Roger Kieschnick had tied the game an inning earlier with a run-scoring double.

Rafael Cova worked around a walk in the ninth for his third postseason save. He uncorked two wild pitches to put the potential tying run at third base with two outs.

"I think I aged eight or nine years in that inning," Skeels said. "He's kind of been like this for us all year. Sometimes you gotta leave guys out there and let them work out of it."

Cova rewarded his manager's faith, retiring Travis Scott on a fly ball to center field to set off a celebration at Municipal Stadium.

Cal League MVP Alex Liddi delivered an RBI double but popped out to second with the tying run on base in the eighth for the Mavericks, who managed only two hits after the second inning.

Michael Pineda (0-1) took the loss after yielding four runs on 11 hits with seven strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings.

The championship is the Giants' fourth this decade, following pennants in 2001, 2004 and 2007. San Jose is the second Giants affiliate to win a title this season, joining Northwest League champion Salem-Keizer.

Skeels guided San Jose to 93 wins, the second-highest total in the Minor Leagues, a year after winning the South Atlantic League championship at Augusta.

"I'm very proud of this one," he said. "It required a lot of hard work and we put in a lot of effort. It's a testament to our organization when kids jump a level and can still play at the same high level. I had a bunch of winners."

Robert Emrich is a contributor for