The Quakes, after winning both halves in the South Division of the 2011 regular season, began their quest for their first Cal League title in 17 years with a disappointing 8-5 loss in Game 1 of the South Division Finals to Lake Elsinore.
The Quakes squandered a 4-0 lead after three innings en route to dropping the first game of the best-of-five series.
There was plenty of blame to go around: starter Red Patterson and relievers Bret Montgomery and Steve Smith were not at their best and each contributed to the collapse.
Angelo Songco was 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position and the Quakes got no hits from the bottom four hitters in their order.
But Blake Smith twice came up with the Quakes trailing 6-5, and the tying run on third with two outs. First in the fifth, and again in the seventh.
“I thought the turning point was Blake’s at-bat in the seventh,” Quakes manager Juan Bustabad said. “It’s a 2-0 count, and he grounds out. He needs to take a pitch. Maybe you’ll walk and who knows, maybe they’ll walk the next guy.”
Smith hit a weak grounder to second on a 2-0 count, grounding out with the bases loaded to end the threat in the seventh.
Quakes host Lake Elsinore for Game 2 Sunday at 5:05 p.m.