Rancho Cucamonga saved its best South Division Finals moment for last, earning a 6-5 walk-off victory against High Desert in the decisive Game 5 at LoanMart Field on Wednesday night.
The Quakes (3-2) trailed 5-4 as they entered the bottom of the ninth against Mavericks' reliever Dakota Watts (0-1). Tim Locastro grounded out and Alex Verdugo struck out, leaving Rancho Cucamonga with one out to spare. After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Jacob Scavuzzo walked. Cody Bellinger lined a single to right-center field, setting up runners at the corners. Tyler Ogle walked to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Delvis Morales slapped a single into shallow left field, scoring Scavuzzo and Bellinger for the 6-5 win while clinching a berth in the California League Championship Series against the San Jose Giants.
Rancho Cucamonga opened the scoring in the bottom of the second against starter David Perez. Ogle led off the inning with a double into the left field corner. Paul Hoenecke grounded out, advancing Ogle to third. Joey Curletta delivered a sacrifice fly to right field, plating Ogle. Willie Calhoun and Spencer Navin clubbed back-to-back solo homers, staking the home club to a 3-0 lead.
High Desert (4-4) stormed back in the top of the fourth against Quakes' starter A.J. Vanegas. Royce Bolinger drew a leadoff walk and raced home on Ronald Guzman's triple to right-center field. David Lyon singled to center field, chasing Guzman home to trim the deficit to 3-2.
The Quakes responded in the bottom of the fourth against Perez. Curletta doubled to left field to open the inning. Willie Calhoun reached on an infield single, setting up runners at the corners. Navin grounded into a fielder's choice, but Curletta scored to make it a 4-2 contest.
The Mavericks grabbed the lead in the top of the fifth against reliever Kyle Hooper. Evan Van Hoosier stroked a single to left field. Joe Jackson walked, placing runners at first and second. Bolinger slugged a three-run home run to straightaway center field, giving the South Division second-half champions a 5-4 edge.
Rancho Cucamonga had a chance to tie in the bottom of the eighth. With right-hander Adam Quintana on the mound for High Desert in relief, Hoenecke singled and was replaced by pinch-runner Travis Witherspoon, who stole second. Curletta walked, forcing Quintana's exit. Lefty Felix Carvallo retired Calhoun on a fielder's choice. With Watts summoned from the bullpen, pinch-hitter Devan Ahart grounded out to end the threat.
High Desert attempted to extend its lead its lead in the top of the ninth. With left-hander Michael Johnson pitching, Isiah Kiner-Falefa singled to right field. Josh Sborz (1-0) entered from the bullpen as Kiner-Falefa stole second. Van Hoosier and Jackson both flew out to center field, however, to end the inning and set the stage for the dramatic walk-off win.
The Quakes continued a series-long trend on Wednesday, with the winning team scoring first in all five games of the South Division Finals. During the regular season, Rancho Cucamonga posted a 53-21 record when plating the initial run.
In addition, the Quakes recorded only one win in the entire regular season when trailing after eight innings (1-52). They are now 1-2 in the postseason when facing a ninth-inning deficit.
Rancho Cucamonga moves on to the best-of-five California League Championship Series, where they will host San Jose in Game 1 at LoanMart Field on Thursday night. The Quakes' lone California League title took place in 1994, when they were a San Diego Padres' affiliate. In 2010, Rancho Cucamonga squared off against the Giants for the league championship, resulting in a heartbreaking, five-game loss.
The Quakes will send right-hander Chase De Jong (0-0, 0.00 ERA in postseason) to the mound. San Jose will likely counter with right-hander Jordan Johnson (0-0, 6.00 ERA in postseason). First pitch at LoanMart Field is scheduled for 7:05 pm. 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.
The California League Championship Series opener against the Giants will be a Thirsty Thursday! Fans can enjoy 24-ounce Pepsi products for $2, 16-ounce domestic drafts for $3 and 16-ounce premium drafts, wine, champagne and margaritas for just $4! The entire Quakes' postseason run is sponsored by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino.
Tickets for Games 1 and 2 of the California League Championship Series are available at rcquakes.com, at the LoanMart Field box office and by calling (909) 481-5000. We hope to see you at LoanMart Field…Go Quakes!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.