Class A Advanced High Desert should be well prepared for the win-or-go home playoff atmosphere at the end of the year after earning their spot with a first-half title deciding game Monday.
The Mavericks fell behind early, but charged back to top the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, 8-5, in a winner-take-all game for the California League South Division first-half title.
Three teams -- the Mavericks, Quakes and Lancaster JetHawks -- remained tied atop the South Division as the first half came to a close. With head-to-head record used to determine the tiebreaker, Lancaster was eliminated, but High Desert and Rancho Cucamonga were locked in a tie which led to Monday's playoff decider.
The Mavericks fell behind after 5 1/2 innings, 5-2, but scored two in the bottom of the fifth and four more in the sixth to take the lead for good.
"I think we're a resilient team," shortstop Brad Miller said. "Our pitchers have done a great job keeping us in ballgames. We have some very mature players and we've been able to come back from some deficits early. We were down again tonight and nobody panicked, it's a good characteristic."
Miller, Seattle's No. 7 prospect, went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI leading off for the Mavericks on Monday. Designated hitter Steven Proscia went 4-for-5 with a homer. Eight of the nine hitters in the High Desert lineup delivered multi-hit games.
On the mound, Roenis Elias allowed five runs over four innings before handing off to Timothy Boyce (1-2), who earned the win with 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Stephen Kohlscheen, Jose Jimenez and Carson Smith combined for the final 2 1/3 shutout innings to lock it down.
"The big thing is our manager Pedro [Grifol] stresses giving the team a chance to win and control the big inning," said Miller. "We believe in our ability to score runs and that's what [Elias] did for us, he competed. The bullpen closed the door. They come in and do such a good job and set the tone and [the offense] followed suit."
High Desert has thrived with a power-packed offense. The Mavericks lead the Cal League with a .302 team average, 105 home runs and 494 runs scored, 69 more than second-place Lancaster.
Stefen Romero, who has since been called up to Double-A Jackson, topped the team with a .357 average and 51 RBIs. Miller hit .325 with nine homers and a team-best .411 on-base percentage, while outfielder Julio Morban leads the squad with 13 homers and a .651 slugging percentage.
"We wanted to play playoff baseball, we want a chance to win the title," said Miller. "That's something that's really important to us. We want to go out winners and you have to play in a playoff environment, in a circumstance where you have to win. We're excited about that."