San Bernardino, CA - The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes scored three times in the ninth inning, only to turn around and give up two in the bottom of the ninth, as the Inland Empire 66ers rallied for a 7-6 win on Friday night, sending them to the South Division Finals against the Lancaster JetHawks, thanks to a 2-1 series win in the best-of-three.
The Quakes stunned the San Manuel Stadium crowd for a second straight night, as one night after rallying for a ten-inning win to force a decisive game three, the Rancho bats came alive late to give them a 6-5 lead.
That lead was short-lived though, as Rancho closer Craig Stem (0-1) couldn't hold off the Inland Empire bats in the bottom of the inning. The 66ers got some help, as Gary Mitchell opened the inning with a hard one-hopper off the glove of shortstop Corey Seager. Pinch-runner Angel Rosa was then moved to second base on a sac bunt by Sherman Johnson. Eric Stamets followed with a single to center fielder Casio Grider, whose throw to the plate looked like it may have even had Rosa nailed, but home plate umpire David Marcoe called the runner safe and the game was tied at 5-5. On the play, Stamets moved to second base, then scored on the very next pitch, as Alex Yarbrough followed with a hit to center. Grider's throw was again late, this time scoring Stamets to give Inland Empire a 2-1 win in the series and a date with the #1 seed JetHawks in the South Division Finals.
The Quakes took advantage of Inland Empire starter Danny Reynolds' command in the first inning, as three straight hitters walked to open the game. O'Koyea Dickson followed with a sac fly to score Grider, making it 1-0. Bobby Coyle, Jr. then singled home Scott Schebler, giving Rancho a two-run lead and chasing Reynolds from the game after recording just one out. Noel Cuevas capped the inning with another sac fly, scoring Darnell Sweeney to make it 3-0.
Inland Empire scored the game's next five runs, as they took advantage of an error and a couple of bad-hop singles, eventually building a 5-3 lead against Quakes' starter Lindsey Caughel.
Trailing 5-3 in the ninth, Dickson led off the inning with a solo homer to left field against 66ers' closer R.J. Alvarez, pulling the Quakes to within one at 5-4. The Quakes weren't done there though, as after Alvarez got Coyle to fly out to deep center field, he allowed back-to-back singles to Cuevas and Seager, putting runners at first and third with one out. Chris O'Brien followed with a hard-hit ground ball to first baseman Brian Hernandez, who got the out at first, but couldn't get the double-play at second, as Seager beat the tag, allowing Cuevas to score to even the game at 5-5. Scott Wingo followed with an RBI single to right, chasing Alvarez and putting the Quakes just three outs away from advancing to the South Division Finals.
Inland Empire reliever Eduard Santos (1-0) picked up the win by getting the final out in the Quakes' ninth.
Congratulations to the Inland Empire 66ers for their series-win, as the Quakes wish the best of luck to both the 66ers and the Lancaster JetHawks, who will now square off for the right to face the winner of the San Jose/Visalia series, in the Cal League Championship Series.
The Quakes averaged over 2,400 fans at LoanMart Field this season and couldn't have done it without the help and support of our terrific fans, ticket package holders and corporate partners. THANK YOU!
The 2014 season will be here before you know it and we hope to see you at LoanMart Field very soon. Thanks again for an exciting 2013 season…Go Quakes!!!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.