VISALIA, CA - Rancho Cucamonga has won the California League's South Division for the first time since 2011, topping Visalia 5-2 at Rawhide Ballpark on Saturday night.
The Quakes (40-29) broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the seventh against Rawhide reliever Daniel Gibson (2-1). Cody Bellinger drew a two-out walk and Tyler Ogle blasted a two-run homer to straightaway center field for his team-leading 13th of the season, giving Rancho Cucamonga a dramatic 4-2 lead.
The South Division champs added an insurance run in the eighth against right-hander J.R. Bradley. Brandon Dixon, who joined the Quakes earlier in the afternoon from Double-A Tulsa, crushed a solo homer over the Visalia bullpen in left field, extending the margin to 5-2.
The Quakes' bullpen did outstanding work against Visalia (42-27), combining to toss five scoreless innings against the North Division winners. A.J. Vanegas allowed one hit and one walk over one and two-third innings. Michael Johnson (4-1) surrendered a walk over one and one-third innings while earning the victory. Dan Tillman pitched a perfect eighth inning and Ramon Benjamin worked around a leadoff single in the ninth to record his fourth save of the year, touching off a celebration on the infield for Rancho Cucamonga's second trip to the postseason in three years.
The Rawhide grabbed the early edge against Quakes' starter Luis De Paula. Domingo Leyba opened the first inning with a single, then advanced to third on Kevin Cron's base-hit to center. Daniel Palka's groundout to second allowed Leyba to come home, giving the home team a 1-0 lead.
Visalia added another run in the second against De Paula, thanks to some defensive miscues. Stewart Ijames singled to start the rally. Raul Navarro reached on an error by shortstop Dillon Moyer. Tyler Baker's chopper to first resulted in an error by Ogle, loading the bases. Ijames came home on Leyba's RBI groundout, providing the Rawhide with a 2-0 advantage.
The Quakes began their comeback in the fourth against Visalia starter Blayne Weller. Paul Hoenecke extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a double to right field. Dixon's groundout advanced Hoenecke to third. Joey Curletta's grounder to third resulted in a throwing error by Navarro, scoring Hoenecke to trim the deficit to 2-1.
Rancho Cucamonga evened the contest in the fifth against Weller. Johan Mieses tripled off the center field fence to open the inning and came home on Ogle's single to left, knotting the game at 2-2 and setting the stage for the Quakes' clinching victory.
With the win, the Quakes receive a first-round bye in the postseason and will automatically receive home-field advantage for Games 1 and 2 in the California League Division Finals in September.
Rancho Cucamonga closes out the first-half of the year with a Sunday matinee against Visalia. The Quakes are scheduled to send right-hander John Richy (6-2, 4.73 ERA) to the mound, while the Rawhide counter with righty John Omahen (6-2, 3.24 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 1:00 pm. You can catch all the action on FOX Sports 1350 AM, beginning with the LoanMart Pregame Show at 12:45.
The California-Carolina League All-Star Game, presented by WaBa Grill, comes to LoanMart Field in Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday, June 23rd! Tickets for this special event, which includes the U.S. Bank Home Run Derby, are available at (909) 481-5000 or at rcquakes.com. Meanwhile, the Quakes return home on Tuesday, June 30th against High Desert. We hope to see you very soon at LoanMart Field…Go Quakes!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.