Rancho Cucamonga finished its regular season in style, getting a late home run to edge Inland Empire 7-6 at LoanMart Field on Monday afternoon and sweep the series.
The victory means that the Quakes (37-33, 78-62) clinch the best overall record in the South Division this season and will host a decisive Game 5 in the upcoming South Division Finals against either High Desert or Lancaster.
With the game tied 6-6 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Rancho Cucamonga received a power surge against 66ers' reliever Alan Busenitz (0-2). With one out, Paul Hoenecke launched a solo homer to center field for his ninth of the season, giving his club a 7-6 lead. It was Hoenecke's first game since August 29th after missing time with a back ailment.
Inland Empire (26-44, 61-79) had one last chance to tie in the ninth inning against Quakes' closer Josh Sborz. Kody Eaves and Andrew Daniel each singled with two outs, placing runners at the corners. Daniel then stole second base, putting the potential go-ahead run into scoring position. Caleb Adams struck out, however, preserving Sborz's second save of the season.
The 66ers plated the initial runs of the game in the top of the second against right-hander David Reid-Foley, who replaced starter James Campbell after one inning. Quinten Davis doubled down the left field line. Bo Way singled to right, scoring Davis. After stealing second base, Way came home on Roberto Baldoquin's single up the middle, giving the visitors a 2-0 edge.
The Quakes roared back in the bottom of the second against starter Jordan Kipper. Alex Verdugo stroked a leadoff single to right field. Tyler Ogle singled to left. Willie Calhoun's groundout advanced the runners to second and third. Delvis Morales flared a single to left-center field, chasing Verdugo and Ogle home to tie the game at 2-2.
Inland Empire responded against Reid-Foley in the top of the fourth. Michael Strentz blasted a solo home run off the right-center field scoreboard for his sixth of the season, restoring the 66ers' lead. Gabriel Santana singled to center field. Davis doubled down the left field line once again, setting up runners at second and third. Santana trotted home on Way's RBI groundout. Mike Fish doubled into the left field corner, plating Davis for a 5-2 cushion.
Rancho Cucamonga rallied against Kipper to trim the deficit in the bottom of the fourth. Verdugo crushed a solo homer to right field that was estimated at 468 feet, with the ball landing in the parking lot beyond the fence. It was Verdugo's fourth long ball in a Quakes' uniform. Calhoun doubled to right field. Hoenecke's groundout pushed Calhoun to third. Morales singled to right, scoring Calhoun to cut the margin to 5-4.
The Quakes grabbed their first lead of the contest in the fifth against Kipper. Spencer Navin reached on a fielding error against Eaves, the third baseman. Jacob Scavuzzo walked, placing runners at first and second. Verdugo singled to right field for his third hit of the game, with Navin hustling home and Scavuzzo advancing to third. With runners at the corners and no outs, Ogle grounded into a double play, but Scavuzzo scored to give his club a 6-5 advantage.
Inland Empire evened things against right-hander Dillon Moyer in the seventh inning. Fish singled to right field for his third hit of the contest. Daniel laced a single to right as well, setting up runners at the corners. Adams hit a grounder into center field for a base-hit, scoring Fish to tie the game at 6-6 and set up the late-inning heroics for the Quakes.
By sweeping the 66ers, Rancho Cucamonga claims the season series against their nearby rivals from San Bernardino, winning 12 of the 23 matchups. The Quakes conclude the regular season with a 44-26 record at LoanMart Field, the best home mark in the California League.
The focus now shifts to the postseason, as the Quakes will host Games 1 and 2 of the upcoming South Division Finals on September 12th and 13th against the winner of a first-round, best-of-three series between High Desert and Lancaster.
Game 1 of the South Division Finals at LoanMart Field is scheduled for a 7:05 pm first pitch on Saturday and will feature a postgame fireworks display, presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino! Tickets are available at rcquakes.com, at the LoanMart Field box office and by calling (909) 481-5000. If you can't make it to the game, you can follow all the action on FOX Sports 1350 AM, beginning with the LoanMart Pregame Show at 6:50.
Sunday's Game 2 of the South Division Finals is scheduled to begin at 5:05 pm. It will be a "Dodgers' Fun In The Sunday!" Former Dodger Jay Johnstone will be on-hand to meet with fans and Dodgers-related prizes will be awarded throughout the evening.
We hope to see you very soon at LoanMart Field…Go Quakes!