Upland volleyball still looks pretty good

Every year, people think that this is it.

Upland volleyball has been a Baseline League dynasty for basically a decade. In fact, they haven’t lost a league match since 2001. But every year, it seems Upland lost a great player or two to graduation and the rest of the league figures this is the time when Upland is going down.

In 2008, Upland doesn’t have defending Inland Valley Player of the Year Morgan Carty, who is now at Division II power Cal State San Bernardino. But after watching Upland sweep a ranked St. Lucy’s team on Tuesday, the Highlanders look like they’ll be fine.

And they’re still getting better. Senior Amanda Goodwin (opposite/middle hitter) injured her foot in June and has only returned to match competition in the last two weeks.

“We’re getting her into game shape,” Upland coach Scott Robertson said after the St. Lucy’s match.

Robertson cited Los Osos, Alta Loma and Claremont as three of the big challengers to Upland’s league dominance this year.

One of them might well knock off Upland.  But right now, Upland’s history of success gives them the benefit of the doubt in my mind. So I won’t believe Upland will lose in league until they do it.

This year, despite losing talent from last year, Upland has nine seniors among 12 varsity players. That’s a lot of experience.

So if not this year, then next year might be the year to knock off Upland in the league. But don’t count on it.

Etiwanda-Glendora game was an epic

It wasn’t a playoff game, nor was it a game for a league title. But Friday’s nonleague game between Glendora and Etiwanda might be the best game I see all year.

Consider this: the teams combined for only five penalties and one turnover. Two quarterbacks were outstanding. Running backs were impressive. And Glendora won 36-35 on a two-point conversion with 39 seconds remaining.

Consider this: Etiwanda did not punt once in the game. In nine possessions, they scored five touchdowns. Two possessions ended with the first half or the second half. One was a missed field goal and one they turned the ball over on downs.

This is my 14th football season with the Daily Bulletin. And there are few nonleague games  I have covered during those years that can match Friday’s game in terms of excitement. Two come to mind. One was a 39-38 game between Chino and Pacific 10 years ago when Pacific had Joe Weber and Chino went on to make it to the CIF-SS Division II championship game

The other game was two years ago and it’s one that probably still haunts Damien fans. Damien had taken a 29-28 lead on a touchdown and a two-point conversion with 55 seconds remaining. But St. John Bosco drove back down the field, although it appeared the Braves ran out of time. Yet officials ruled a receiver stepped out of bounds, stopping the clock and allowing for one final play. A 44-yard field goal as  time expired gave St. John Bosco a 31-29 win.

Saeger’s baseball baby names

A few weeks ago, I had a post, asking readers to send me their ideas for a baseball-themed baby names.

To recap, Mike Saeger, the radio voice of the 66ers since 1995, will be a dad for the first time in the next few months. His wife, J’leen, is pregnant with the couple’s first child. Both are big Dodgers and baseball fans and are interested in finding a suitable baseball-related name for their child.

I got two people nominating names: One person, Robert Reeves, suggested Robinson Koufax Saeger. “Obviously after two of the greatest Dodgers ever.”

Then, Gail Lindsay had several suggestion. For a boy, she had: Grand Slam, Mitt Hurler, Jack Looper, Chase Striker. For a girl, her ideas were: Diamond Lace, Diamond Pearl, Pearl Lace.

In my last posting, I said that J’leen had four stadium names as possible first names:  Shea, Ebbets, Camden and Wrigley. As I recall, Mike is OK with Shea and Camden, not OK with Ebbets or Wrigley. He’s more concerned with potential nicknames for his son or daughter rather than historical significance. Apparently he doesn’t want his kid called Wriggle or Ebby by classmates. Where are his priorities? Just kidding.

I’m not a Dodger fan, but I thought Drysdale (as in Don) would make a cool first name. Gibson (as in Kirk), wouldn’t be too bad either. Or combine them: Drysdale Gibson Saeger has a nice ring to it. Then there’s every 1980s Dodger fan’s dream: to combine the names of 1988 Cy Young winner Orel Hershiser and 1982 Rookie of the Year Steve Sax. You know what I’m talking about.

Of course, not for your own kid.

Post a comment to my blog or e-mail me at pete.marshall@inlandnewspapers.com .

I was half right about Cal League playoffs

When the 66ers were eliminated by Lake Elsinore in the first round, I predicted that Lake Elsinore would beat San Jose for the championship.

I was completely wrong, or as I prefer to look at it, half right. San Jose and Lancaster each won both halves (the first time it’s happened in the league since 2004, and second time since 1994), so they were the odds-on favorites to reach the finals. I didn’t think that would happen, as I thought one of the two teams would lose in the division finals, the part I was half-right.

However, I picked the wrong team. It was San Jose that lost, in five games to Stockton, while Lake Elsinore fell in five games to Lancaster. The part I was half wrong. Or some of you might say I was all wrong.

As I re-predict the finals, I’m going with Lancaster over Stockton in five games, in part because Lancaster has home field advantage. But the JetHawks also have superior pitching.

That’s it for 66ers

The 66ers made great strides during 2008, from a pathetic start to the season to a team that made the playoffs without a great number of prospects.

Lake Elsinore was the better team going into the series. They have the best offense in the league, and the pitching has gotten better. Lake Elsinore was my pick to win the first half but it was Lancaster that came out with the win.

Lake Elsinore was the hottest team going into the playoffs, so I will predict the Storm will beat Lancaster, then beat San Jose in the finals. In 2005 and 2007, as the rotation goes in the finals, San Jose had home field advantage and won all of its home games to take home the title. This year the South has home field, so the Storm will win the title with the fifth game at The Diamond.

Do Cal League baseball gods hate USC?

Consider what happened on Tuesday and Wednesday at Arrowhead Credit Union Park, then decide for yourself  how the Cal League baseball gods feel about USC.

Tuesday’s one-game playoff between the 66ers and Quakes was eventually won by the 66ers 7-6 in 13 innings, but not before Sixers closer and USC product Paul Koss blew a 6-3 lead in the ninth inning, just his third blown save in 17 chances this season.

Sixers general manager Loren Foxx is a USC graduate, and enjoyed playing the USC fight song for certain opposing hitters, most notably Quakes outfielder and UCLA product Anthony Norman. Norman scored the first run in that ninth-inning Quakes rally on Tuesday, but the greater impact came on Wednesday.

The Sixers played the USC song when Lake Elsinore second baseman and Arizona State product Eric Sogard batted in the ninth inning on Wednesday. If you were in attendance, you know what happened next — the stadium and scoreboard lights went out before Sogard saw a pitch. Play resumed, Sogard saw three more pitches, and the lights went out again, like someone above didn’t like what the Sixers did.

That Game 1 against Lake Elsinore on Wednesday was suspended at that point after the lights went out a second time. The game was resumed before Game 2 at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore Thursday.

Coincidence? Maybe. But USC took a beating for those two games in San Bernardino.

Lake Elsinore takes Game 1 vs. 66ers… well not quite yet

The lights went out twice in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the South Division best-of-three first round series between the 66ers and Lake Elsinore Storm on Wednesday. The first delay was 26 minutes, the second was seven minutes. The game was eventually suspended with the Storm leading 10-5 in the top of the ninth.

The game will resume at 6:05 Thursday night at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore. Fans were told when the game was suspended that they can use their tickets from Game 1 at The Diamond Thursday for the resumption of Game 1 plus Game 2, which will follow Game 1. Game 3, if necessary, will be played Friday at The Diamond.

66ers make playoffs, beat Quakes 7-6 in a thriller

SAN BERNARDINO – It was game 141 in a 140-game season.
So perhaps it was only appropriate that it went beyond the scheduled nine innings.
Bridger Hunt scored on a wild pitch from A.J. Ford in the bottom of the 13th inning and the 66ers pulled out a 7-6 victory over the Quakes in a thrilling one-game playoff at Arrowhead Credit Union Park on Tuesday night.
At four hours, 48 minutes, it was the longest game in terms of time in Quakes history.
It was the South Division’s first one-game playoff at the end of the regular season since 1999. The Sixers advanced to host Game 1 of the best-of-three first round against Lake Elsinore at 7:05 tonight.
The Quakes had defeated the Sixers on Monday in the final scheduled regular-season game to force the one-game playoff after the teams finished with identical 67-73 records during the 140 games. The Sixers, who won the season series 16-12, won six of the last seven games against the Quakes.
With the score tied 6-6 in the 13th, Hunt led off with a walk and Christian Lara delivered his fifth hit of the game, a single to right that sent Hunt to third. Tommy Giles was intentionally walked for the third time of the game. Ford then sent a pitch to Drew Locke into the dirt that appeared to ricochet off of catcher C.J. Bressoud. It bounced high off the net behind the plate and Hunt scored without a play.
The loss meant the Quakes failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
Wild doesn’t even begin to describe some of what happened late in the game as the Quakes rallied from a three-run deficit in the ninth inning, and also had two coaches and a player ejected. Not only that, but both teams used all of their bench position players. The Quakes used Anthony Norman and P.J. Phillips as pinch-hitters, Anderson Rosario as a pinch runner and C.J. Bressoud as a defensive replacement. The Sixers used Trayvon Robinson as a pinch runner, Justin Fuller as a pinch runner and Alex Garabedian as a defensive replacement.
It looked like the Sixers were going to win going away, but the Quakes tied it up after trailing 6-2.
It was 6-3 entering the ninth when Jordan Pratt walked pinch-hitters Norman and Phillips. Peter Bourjos singled to right against closer Paul Koss, and the Quakes trailed 6-4. A sacrifice bunt by Abel Nieves moved runners to second and third before Koss intentionally walked Hank Conger to load the bases. Efren Navarro walked to force in a run before Drew Toussaint dumped a single to center to score Bourjos with the tying run.
But Koss battled back and struck out Ryan Mount and Larry Infante to end the threat.
Infante was so incensed after striking out (he was angry over the strike two call) that he threw his helmet and was ejected by home plate umpire Jimmy Volpi. Manager Ever Magallanes came to Infante’s defense and was ejected as well.
The Sixers had a chance in the bottom of the ninth, but Hunt was thrown out at the plate on Lara’s one out single and Locke flew out with the winning run on third base.
The Sixers snapped a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning against Quakes starter Jordan Walden when Lara led off with a double to left-center and Tommy Giles followed with a double into the left-field corner to score Lara and give Giles his 99th RBI of the season.
In the seventh, the Sixers broke the game open against Quakes reliever Brian Rembisz.
With one out, Scott Van Slyke singled and Esteban Lopez walked.
With two outs, Lara tripled into the right-field corner to give the Quakes a 5-2 lead. Giles followed with an infield single that second baseman Ryan Mount barely kept from going into center field. Lara scored on Giles’ 100th RBI, and the Sixers led 6-2.
But the Quakes scored a run in the eighth on a Conger walk, a Navarro single, and a wild pitch to make it 6-3. Jordan Pratt then relieved
The Sixers jumped on Walden early. With two outs, Giles walked and Locke doubled into the left-field corner. Giles easily beat the throw home and Locke advanced to third on the throw.
Austin Gallagher, who hadn’t played since fracturing the tip of his finger August 15, got the start at designated hitter after being activated from the disabled list a couple of days ago.
“He had a much better BP (Tuesday),” Sixers manager John Valentin said.
Gallagher’s first at-bat in more than two weeks was a single to right that scored Locke and gave the Sixers a 2-0 lead.
The Quakes tied the score with a pair of triples.
The first came off the bat of Toussaint with one out in the second inning and Ryan Mount followed with a sacrifice fly. In the fourth, Nieves led off with a triple, and Conger hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-2.
Quakes hitting coach Francisco Matos, coaching first base, was ejected for arguing that Nieves beat the throw to first on a double-play grounder to end the top of the fifth. Had Nieves been ruled safe, the Quakes would’ve taken a 3-2 lead.



ex-Sixer Santana passed on final day

It looked like ex-66er catcher Carlos Santana was going to win the batting title, after all of his close competitors were either promoted and didn’t have enough at-bats to qualify, dropped off the pace, or were injured.

Santana, traded to the Cleveland Indians organization in late July, had enough plate appearances entering the season’s final day and his .323 batting average led Lake Elsinore’s Cedric Hunter. When Hunter didn’t play in the season finale, it looked like Santana would get a late batting title.

But Lancaster outfielder Daniel Nava, who had dropped out of the race in the final week because he missed nearly three weeks with a strained oblique muscle, played in the final three games of the regular season. He finished with 379 plate appearances, one more than he needed. So Nava’s batting average of .341 trumped Santana’s .323 for the title.