San Bernardino, CA - The Rancho Cucamonga bullpen tossed four innings of scoreless relief behind starter Josiah Gray, holding on for a 5-3 win over the Inland Empire 66ers on Sunday afternoon at San Manuel Stadium.
After allowing three runs (one earned) over five innings, Gray gave way to the bullpen, as Connor Strain, Austin Drury and Connor Mitchell combined for four innings of one-hit shut-out relief.
Leading 4-3 in the seventh, Drury came on for his Cal League debut and got into immediate trouble, loading the bases without allowing a hit. With one out though, he induced a double-play ball to end the inning and preserve the one-run advantage.
Drury walked the first hitter he faced in the eighth, but again got a double-play ball behind him, sending the Quakes to the ninth with a one-run lead.
In the ninth, Rancho got an insurance run, as Drew Avans laid down a bunt with Connor Wong at third base and only one out, taking the lead to two runs at 5-3.
In the last of the inning, Mitchell gave up a one-out double, but retired the side scoreless, earning his first save in a Rancho uniform.
Gray (3-0) was sharp early in earning his third straight win, striking out nine. An error behind him attributed to two unearned runs over his five innings of work.
Offensively, Rancho scored three times in the third inning to take the lead for good against Inland Empire starter Dean Brady. Trailing 2-0, Avans ripped an RBI double to score Marcus Chiu, making it 2-1. Three batters later, Matt Beaty, down from Los Angeles on a rehab assignment, doubled home Avans to tie the game. Deacon Liput singled home Beaty to cap the inning, giving Rancho a 3-2 lead.
Starling Heredia opened the fourth with a homer off Brady (2-6), giving the Quakes a two-run lead at 4-2, his fifth of the year.
With Rancho's win on Sunday and Lancaster's loss to Lake Elsinore, the Quakes (37-24), now 13 games over .500 for the first time all year, have officially eliminated the JetHawks from first-half playoff contention. They now lead second-place Lake Elsinore by five games with just seven to play in the first half.
On Monday, the Quakes will send Andre Jackson (0-1) to the mound against Travis Herrin (1-1) in game four of the five-game set. First pitch will be at 7:05pm.
On Wednesday, the Quakes will return to LoanMart Field for Terra Vista Animal Hospital Bark in the Ballpark, as dogs are welcome to the ballpark with the purchase of a three-dollar pet pass. Purchase tickets online at rcquakes.com or by calling (909) 481-5000. Go Quakes!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.