Rialto’s Nolasco has amazing performance

Anyone who saw Ricky Nolasco in high school — myself included, thought the former Rialto High star was a very good pro baseball prospect. Many also believed he could’ve been a hitter, too.

You never know if things will totally pan out, especially with injuries. But on Wednesday, he turned in an amazing performance against a team fighting for the playoffs.

Nolasco struck out 16 Atlanta Braves in 7 2/3 innings in Florida’s 5-4 win on Wednesday night in Atlanta. He also struck out nine straight batters at one point, fanning the side in the third, fourth and fifth innings. He was one short of Tom Seaver’s major league record. He was also only the fourth all-time to strike out as many as nine straight batters, the last being Jake Peavy for the Padres in 2007. It has never been done in the American League.

It’s a shame he didn’t have a chance to go for the major league record of 20 strikeouts, because he had thrown 123 pitches (83 of which were for strikes) in those 7 2/3 innings. His previous season high was 12 strikeouts in 8 innings against Pittsburgh July 5 in a 5-0 win.

The 26-year-old Nolasco, who was a fourth-round draft pick out of high school by the Cubs in 2001, had only had a cumulative ERA below 5.00 once this season, and it was 5.28 entering Wednesday’s start. He lowered it to 5.06 by allowing two unearned runs during his stint Wednesday, when he also walked two and gave up four hits.

Despite a poor overall ERA in 2009, he has a good record. After what was supposed to be Nolasco’s last appearance of 2009, he is now 13-9 this season and has won 11 of his last 14 decisions dating back to June. But, he allowed seven earned runs or more in each of his three losses during that span.

Remembering Jim Long

In Wednesday’s paper, I wrote a story about the passing of a friend of mine and former colleague Jim Long.

I used anecdotes and quotes from other people, but now here’s my 2 cents:

  • Jim was such a nice guy. He would always greet you with a cheery, “hey there.”
  • He was always the journalist. Even when he was ill and couldn’t be a part-timer covering high school football for us, he would e-mail us notes and updates on stories of ours he read. And the comments always came across as constructive and helpful, not critical.
  • Over the years, I was most likely to see him at Mavericks Stadium in Adelanto. I liked to refer to it as “The House that Jim Long Built.” That might be a stretch, but he was there in the early, glory years. It was also an important place to him, and he was a guy who spent a lot of time there over the years, even when he wasn’t reporting. He had a vast knowledge of the history of the team.
  • The most time I spent with Jim over several days was I believe in August 1994, when we were both covering the Little League Western Regional for The Sun. I had the earlier shift and Jim the later one, but we overlapped each day and coordinated our coverage. Jim took every assignment seriously and treated the people he was covering with the respect that he would’ve liked to receive. He will be missed.


Upland-Serrano football from last week

Last week, I had some deadline issues with my Upland-Serrano football game story.

It did not appear in the paper, so here it is, as I wrote it Friday night.

By Pete Marshall Staff Writer
PHELAN — Upland seemed to be fighting against itself most of the
night against Serrano.
In the end, they were fighting against the officials.
And that was a battle they ultimately won.
Upland held on for a controversial 21-18 win over Serrano on Friday
night after a go-ahead touchdown by Serrano was nullified with 43
seconds to play.
“This is a tough place to play,” Upland coach Tim Salter said. “And
they’re a very good football team.”
Upland led 21-18 and had the ball, facing a third-and-seven at
midfield in the final minute. Upland running back Keith Hutchins
carried the ball and the ball came out right about the time he hit
the ground.
Serrano’s Aaron Long came up with the ball and ran it back 56 yards
for an apparent touchdown.
“I heard a whistle,” Salter said. “Because he was down. But I asked
if they could talk to each other about it.”
The officials conferred, and ruled that there was a whistle. Serrano
was given the ball at its own 46 and the touchdown was nullified.
“It’s tough it came down to that. I didn’t hear any whistle,” Serrano
coach Ray Maholcic said. “It was a good game.”
On the ensuing drive, Serrano never got the ball past the Upland 39
and turned the ball over on downs.
“I liked the way we hung in there,” Maholcic said. “But we made too
many mistakes, turned the ball over.”
Upland overcame a rash of penalties, 15 for 166 yards in all and even
appeared to have the game in control.
After rallying from an 11-7 halftime deficit, Upland led 21-11 by
scoring on back-to-back drives in the third quarter.
The Highlanders (3-0) had a chance to put further distance between
themselves and the Diamondbacks (1-2), but Jake Van Ginkel missed a
38-yard field goal wide right with 3:18 to play.
Serrano came right back, driving 80 yards and closing to within 21-18
on a 12-yard touchdown catch from Joey Paterson to Laonidas
Spainhower with 1:10 to play.
When Upland recovered the onside kick attempt, the game appeared to
be over, but there was time for the final-minute drama.
Salter was relieved his team won despite the penalties and two
turnovers of their own.
“There are a lot of areas we need to improve,” Salter said.
It was the first start for Upland senior quarterback Harrison
Stewart, replacing the injured Justin Nunes.
“I think he got better as the game went on,” Salter said. “He made
good throws and felt better out there.”
Stewart completed nine of 18 passes for 194 yards and one
Serrano’s standout was running back Dionza Bradford, who rushed for
134 yards on 25 carries, but had a fumble inside the red zone for the
third time in as many weeks.
“That’s something we need to work on,” Maholcic said.
Serrano took the early lead, 8-0 on a three-yard run by Bradford and
a botched extra-point that ended in a two-point conversion run.


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Quakes’ run ends in Game 5, 11-6

Prior to Wednesday’s Game 5 of the South Division Championship Series, Quakes manager Keith Johnson said, “We’d like to keep it low-scoring. That’s to our advantage.”

The Quakes weren’t able to rely on big power bats to put up runs in bunches, really all season long. No Quake hit more regular-season home runs than outfielder Jeremy Moore’s 11.

They hit a franchise record-low 82 home runs in the regular season. That didn’t really hurt them most of the playoffs. Their pitching was good enough to keep the game close enough for the offense to pull it out.

But on Wednesday, the Mavericks had the power advantage by hitting four home runs, including a three-run shot by Travis Scott, two-run shots by Joe Dunigan and Carlos Peguero and a solo shot by Juan Diaz. The Mavericks only out-hit the Quakes 13-11, but had seven extra-base hits, while the Quakes had only four. Diaz’s home run appeared to be the only one that was aided by the hitter-friendly confines of Stater Bros. Stadium.

Jay Brossman did homer for the Quakes, but they came up short of qualifying for their first championship series since 1998. The Mavericks qualified for the first time since 1997, when they had their last league championship.

Beer batter jinx strikes again against Quakes

Some teams in the California League have something called the “beer batter.” At Stater Bros. Stadium in Adelanto, if the designated “beer batter” for the other team strikes out, beer is sold at a discount for the next 10 minutes.

In Game 1 of the South Division Championship Series in Adelanto, the Mavericks picked Quakes outfielder Jeremy Moore. And Moore struck out in his two at-bats during the “beer batter” promotion, which I believe is the first six innings.

In Game 2, they picked infielder Abel Nieves. Nieves struck out his first two times up before flying out his third time up in the first six innings.

Now, in Wednesday night’s Game 5, they picked the hottest of Quakes. Efren Navarro had four hits in his last five at-bats entering the game, and the one out was a line drive snared by first baseman Joe Dunigan in his last at-bat of Game 4.

What did Navarro do in the first inning Wednesday? He struck out, of course. Whether the Mavericks win or lose, beer-drinking and penny-wise Mavericks fans can be happy with the series.

Quakes win again, force Game 5

Improbable? Yes. Impossible? Not anymore.

The Quakes, who weren’t supposed to beat heavily-favored Lake Elsinore in the first round of the playoffs, did.

I thought they had a chance against the Mavericks, because they had played them very competitively during the regular season.

But down 2-0 after losing the first two games in Adelanto 5-0 and 4-0, the prospects for the Quakes looked very bleak.

But in Game 3 Monday, the Quakes rallied three runs in the ninth for a 7-6, 10-inning victory. In Game 4 Tuesday, they held on for a 2-1 victory as Ryan Brasier pitched eight shutout innings, and  Michael Kohn got his third save of the playoffs despite allowing one run on one hit and two walks in the ninth. He struck out Travis Scott to end it.

Do the Quakes have a chance to win in Wednesday night’s Game 5? Most definitely they do. The game is in Adelanto, which will have the Mavericks an advantage. But the Quakes have left-hander Manuel Flores pitching in Game 5. He pitched seven shutout innings in Game 2 against Lake Elsinore last Thursday. Donnie Hume, a left-hander who led the Cal League in wins with 17 will pitch for the Mavericks.

The powerful Mavericks lineup isn’t hitting like it usually is. Leadoff hitter Tyson Gillies (.341 in the regular season) is batting .071 in the playoffs. The Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters Jamie McOwen (.340 regular season, .133 playoffs), Carlos Peguero (.271, 31 HR in the regular season, .077 in the playoffs) and league MVP Alex Liddi (.345 in the regular season, .077 playoffs) aren’t hitting either.

Joe Dunigan (8-for-16 in the playoffs) is the lone big Maverick bat that’s hitting right now.

The Quakes have proven they don’t always need to hit to win. Their starting pitching has been good in the playoffs, their relief pitching has been very good. Even if Michael Kohn can’t pitch in Game 5 (after pitching in Games 3 and 4) Taylor Wilding and Eddie McKiernan are good alternates.

Either way, it’ll be interesting.

Do Quakes have a chance? It looks like it

I’ll admit that prior to the beginning of the playoffs, all signs seemed to point to a short end for the Quakes.

–Quakes had worst record ever to qualify for the playoffs and it tied for the 2nd worst Quakes record all-time. They went 1-6 down the stretch.

–Lake Elsinore won 20 of the 34 regular-season meetings.

–No team that finished 12 games behind another defeated the better regular season team in the playoffs, or even won a game.

–Lake Elsinore had won in the first round 3 straight years.

Of course, none of that mattered and the Quakes won. Looking at the next matchup against formidable High Desert, it looks like the Quakes have a chance.


–High Desert only outscored the Quakes by two runs and the Quakes won 7 of the last 12 games between them.

–the Quakes have momentum, but have also had two days off (Tuesday, Friday) since the end of the regular season. They might be able to steal one in Adelanto  from a potentially rusty Mavericks team.

–As long as they can get to them, the Quakes have a solid bullpen. New closer Michael Kohn is unhittable and struck out 12 in six previous innings against the Mavericks.

–The Quakes seem to believe, which is as important as anything else.

Quakes fail to clinch, 66ers stay alive

The Quakes’ run to their first playoff berth in 5 years has hit a snag, and they’re halfway to a collapse.

After leading the 66ers by four games with four games to play, the Quakes’ lead is now down to two with two to play after Saturday’s action.

Although the Quakes needed only 1 win or 1 Sixer loss in the final four games to clinch a spot, the Quakes have lost twice and the Sixers have won twice.

First, while playing at Bakersfield, the Quakes lost 15-9 on Friday, and then 8-4 on Saturday. On Saturday, the Quakes fell behind 8-0 and a four-run eighth was too little too late. Mauro Gomez homered and drove in six to lead the playoff-bound Blaze. Hector Estrella drove in two runs for the Quakes.

Playing at Lancaster, the Sixers on 6-5 on Friday, and 11-8 on Saturday. Preston Mattingly was 5-for-5 with three doubles on Saturday for the Sixers, while Jaime Ortiz homered twice and drove in five runs. Jovanny Rosario’s RBI triple in the eighth snapped an 8-8 tie.

Even though the Quakes have a magic number of 1 to make the playoffs, it’s not a done deal. The Quakes are playing a playoff-bound Bakersfield team, while the Sixers are playing a Lancaster team that has lost 11 of its last 12 and is out of the playoffs.

Should the Sixers win twice and the Quakes lose twice, there would be a one-game playoff at the Epicenter on Tuesday, because the Quakes won the head-to-head season series between the teams.

A year ago, the Quakes led the Sixers by 3 games with nine to play, but went 2-7, including 1-5 head-to-head vs. the Sixers, while the Sixers went 5-4. The lone Quakes win came on the last day to force a one-game playoff, which was won by the Sixers, 7-6 in 13 innings at Arrowhead Credit Union Park.