Rancho Cucamonga, CA -
The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes clinched the First Half South Division Pennant on Tuesday night, destroying the Inland Empire 66ers by a final of 17-9 at The Epicenter.
Their fourth straight win assured the Quakes of a third consecutive trip to the postseason and gives the club just their fifth First Half Pennant in its 19-year franchise history.
Blake Smith hit a three-run homer in the first and drove in a total of five runs, as the Quakes led from start to finish.
Smith's team-leading 14th homer of the year gave the Quakes a 3-0 lead over 66ers' starter Matt Oye (1-1).
Josh Walter, making a spot-start for the injured Aaron Miller, pitched well in his first start of the year. Walter gave up his only run in the third, as Inland Empire scored on an RBI groundout off the bat of Kole Calhoun, closing the gap to 3-1.
The Quakes took a 5-1 lead, scoring twice in the bottom of the third, as Travis Denker drove in a run with a ground ball and Austin Gallagher brought home a run with an infield single.
Greg Wilborn (2-3) entered in the fifth, as Walter was removed due to pitch count after four. Wilborn pitched well over three innings, but gave up a pair of questionable runs due to a defensive lapse behind him, as Inland Empire scored twice in the fifth to make it a two-run game at 5-3.
That was as close as the 66ers would get though, as the Quakes exploded for eight runs in the sixth against the Inland Empire bullpen. Angelo Songco highlighted the frame with a three-run triple, as the eight-run outburst made it a double-digit lead at 13-3.
The teams traded runs until the very end. After the 66ers scored three times and loaded the bases with two outs, Luis Vasquez came into the game and earned the final out of the pennant-clincher, whiffing former Quake Rian Kiniry to end the game and start the celebration.
The Quakes (37-28) not only earn a post-season berth, but earn a first-round bye and an automatic bid into the South Division Finals.
Playoff ticket packages are now on sale by calling the Ticket Office at (909) 481-5000. Individual tickets for the 2011 Cal League Playoffs will go on sale on August 1st.
Rancho looks for the sweep on Wednesday in the home stand finale, sending Andres Santiago (1-2) to the mound against Inland Empire's Ariel Pena (5-1). Wednesday night is another Terra Vista Animal Hospital Bark in the Ballpark, as fans are invited to bring their four-legged friends to The Epicenter for the home stand finale. Game time is 7:05pm and gates open at 6:05pm. Tickets are available by calling (909) 481-5000 or online at rcquakes.com. We hope to see you at The Epicenter...GO Quakes!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.