SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After seeing the first four games of their California League North Division Series decided in the late innings, the Stockton Ports settled things early Wednesday, scoring seven runs in the first two innings of a series-clinching 9-4 victory over the defending champion San Jose Giants.
Stockton's win sets up its first appearance in the Championship Series since 2002 and a meeting with the Lancaster JetHawks, who defeated the Lake Elsinore Storm in the decisive fifth game of the South Division Finals.
Corey Brown and Josh Donaldson had the big hits for the Ports, with Brown smacking a three-run double in the first and Donaldson driving in two runs with a second-inning double.
"I feel pretty good at the plate and I feel like we have one of the best lineups in this league," said Donaldson, who batted .433 in the series and was lauded by Stockton manager Darren Bush for his work behind the plate. "I don't really feel like there's a weakness -- we have good pitching, too. Our starting pitching's been phenomenal and we just got to continue to go out there and play hard, take it pitch by pitch, inning by inning."
Right-hander Graham Godfrey, the winning pitcher in Stockton's first-rounder clincher against Modesto, repeated the feat, allowing three unearned runs in seven innings.
"Outstanding," Bush said. "He stepped up, two series in a row where we lose, we go home. Graham steps up and goes seven innings and just dominates the ballgame."
San Jose left-hander Jesse English, who was fourth in the league in ERA during the regular season, had his shortest start of the year, allowing four runs in the first and departing after loading the bases with none out in the second. All three of those runners eventually scored.
The Ports struck quickly, with Archie Gilbert legging out an infield single to lead off the game and swiping second. After Josh Horton singled Gilbert to third, Chris Carter rapped a double into the left-field corner to bring him home.
The Giants intentionally walked Donaldson, who had three homers in the series, but Brown, one of the heroes of the Ports' Game 3 walk-off victory, foiled the strategy by clobbering a bases-clearing double off the left-field wall for a 4-0 Stockton lead.
San Jose got a run back in the bottom of the first when Matt Downs scored on a throwing error by first baseman Matt Spencer, but English's night ended with a single and a pair of walks in the second. Taylor Wilding took over and struck out Carter, then got Spencer to hit a soft grounder to short. The Giants were only able to record the out at second, with Alex Valdez scoring the Ports' fifth run and keeping the inning alive for Donaldson, who clubbed a two-run double to make it 7-1.
"We have a ton of respect for [San Jose]," said Bush. "We know that they can score runs and they play good baseball, so we knew at any time we had to be ready to head them off. They're a quality club, fundamental baseball, so, yeah, [the early lead] was nice, but at the same time, it was a long game."
San Jose chipped away with two runs in its half of the second, which began with Mike McBryde reaching on Horton's error at shortstop. Tyler Graham singled and Bobby Felmy doubled just out of Brown's reach in center field to plate both runners.
After that, Godfrey cruised, allowing only three hits over the next five innings. He had been shelled for 19 runs over 13 2/3 innings in four regular-season appearances vs. the Giants.
"He had some trouble against San Jose, but you know what? He just elevated and did a great job," Bush said.
Ports second baseman Frank Martinez, who went 2-for-4, contributed an RBI single in the sixth and scored their final run on a ninth-inning groundout. Andy D'Alessio capped the Giants' scoring in the eighth against Patrick Currin.
"You can't ever get comfortable," Donaldson said. "They have a very good offense. Fortunately, we were able to contain them enough."