Lake Elsinore still 1 win away from title

Lake Elsinore was 12 outs away from its first Cal League title in 10 years.

So close, but oh, so, so far.

Stockton scored four runs in the sixth and 11 in the seventh to blow out the Storm 15-1 in Game 3 of the Cal League Championship Series on Saturday night.

In the 11 run seventh, the Ports drew four walks and one hit batter. Three of the walks were with the bases loaded and there was a grand slam.

Lake Elsinore still leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday at 6:05 at Stockton.

Dan Ricabal leaves Angels

Dan Ricabal, who has been a pitching coach in the Angels’ minor league system for the last six years, is leaving the organization for a job as pitching coach with Loyola Marymount. We already posted this news in Thursday’s paper, but here is some more detail.

Ricabal, who was the 66ers pitching coach this year and the Quakes’ pitching coach from 2008-10, is leaving because it’s a job with his longtime friend and former Cal State Fullerton teammate Jason Gill. Gill is the head coach at LMU.

“We are lucky to be able to add an experienced pitching coach the caliber of Danny Ricabal to the organization,” Gill said in a press release.  “Danny has a proven track record of success as a pitching coach from Division I to professional baseball, and he has worked with some of the best pitchers in the game at all different levels of play.  As a collegiate athlete, Danny pitched in Omaha and knows what it takes to get there.  He has coached at the Division I level and has a clear understanding of how to get his pitchers to reach their full potential.  There are few coaches in the college ranks that have the experience of pitching in Omaha, coaching Division I and coaching in professional baseball.  He is the total package, and the LMU baseball program made big strides in our quest to be champions with the addition of Danny Ricabal.”

Ricabal, whose last college coaching job was at UC Santa Barbara from 2002-04 said, “there aren’t too many colleges I would consider leaving the Angels for, but having the opportunity to work with Gilly is great.”

Ricabal worked with many of the Angels young pitchers including Tyler Chatwood, Trevor Bell, and Jordan Walden. There are also others now with other organizations, such as David Herndon (Phillies), Sean O’Sullivan (Royals) and Alexander Torres (Rays). He also worked with some great young arms with the 2011 Sixers including fireballer Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena, who was No. 2 in the league in strikeouts.

Once pitcher he has a special interest in how he does in the future is Eddie McKiernan, the Monrovia High product who pitched for the Quakes in 2009 and 10 and was with Double-A Arkansas this year. Ricabal watched McKiernan as a youth, gave him an endorsement when the Angels asked his opinion before drafting him then worked with him in the minors.

“It’s bittersweet. It will be great to coach with Gilly, but the Angels were absolutely tremendous,” Ricabal said. “There are a lot of really good baseball people. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was one I had to make in my coaching career. I’m excited.”

Cal League Championship Series starting tonight

Since I’m basically 0 for 4 in picking playoff results this year, I will steer clear of picking a winner between Stockton and Lake Elsinore in the Championship Series. It should be a good series since both teams knocked off the top 2 teams in the regular season in the league.

I know one thing, I’m glad San Jose didn’t make it. It’s more interesting when other teams win the title. Anyway the San Francisco Giants always load up that team, so its good they were unable to secure a league-record third straight title.

Quakes let Game 1 slip away

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.

Playoff predictions for division finals

OK, I was sort of right in my prediction for the first-round series in the California League. I will maintain that. I thought one of the two teams without homefield advantage would win. But I thought it would be the 66ers without home field that would win and Modesto was the one with homefield.

However, it was Lake Elsinore and Stockton with won last night.

So here I am predicting results of the Division Finals. I will take the Quakes and San Jose, each in four games. Both teams have been so consistent this season and they’ve been able to set up their rotations that I think they will both prevail.

Lake Elsinore evens series with 66ers

The Sixers got a second straight outstanding starting performance in the playoffs. This time, they didn’t get the hitting.

Ariel Pena struck out 13 in 7 1/3 spectacular innings, but Edinson Rincon’s bases-loaded single with one out in the ninth scored Nate Freiman with the game-winner as Lake Elsinore was victorious 2-1 over the Sixers in Game 2 of the South Division first round.

The decisive Game 3 is Friday at Lake Elsinore at 7:05 p.m.

The pitching matchup for Friday is the Sixers’ right-hander Cody Evans (2-0, 3.18 ERA) against Storm left-hander Jose DePaula (10-5, 5.22). DePaula is the third straight left-handed starter the Sixers will face in the playoffs, following Andrew Werner and Nick Schmidt.

The season stats would indicate an advantage for the Sixers, but head-to-head numbers favor the Storm. DePaula is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three appearances (one start) against the Sixers, while Evans is 0-0 with a 10.38 ERA in two appearances (one start) against the Storm.

The 66ers will be looking to defeat the Storm in the playoffs for the first time since the South Finals in 2006. They lost in 2007 and 2008. However, those were Mariners (06) and Dodgers  (07 and 08) affiliates. In 2009 and 2010, the Angels’ old affiliate, the Quakes ousted Lake Elsinore in the playoffs.

Fearless Cal League playoff predictions

As the playoffs begin Wednesday, I’ll predict the first round results in the two series.

Lake Elsinore and the 66ers are so close, but the Sixers have played well down the stretch. I’ll take the Sixers to win the series in three.

In the other series, Modesto has been playing a little better down the stretch and I’ll take them to win their series against Stockton in three games as well.

66ers move into tie for home field

Behind 5 1/3 shutout innings from Johnny Hellweg, the 66ers downed Lake Elsinore 6-3 on Thursday night at the Diamond.

The win moved the Sixers to 67-69 overall, tied with Lake Elsinore for home field in the first round of the playoffs. The teams play each other in the playoffs beginning on Wednesday. Lake Elsinore does hold the tiebreaker, however.

Carlos  Ramirez also had three hits and two RBIs, David Harris had two hits and two RBIs and Hellweg struck out nine batters.

The Sixers return home for a season-ending four-game series against Stockton beginning Friday.

Quakes getting the band back together, win again 13-11

  • The Quakes appear to be getting healthy and getting everyone back ready for the playoffs at the right time.

The latest returnee was center fielder Anthony Jackson, who had been out with a broken finger. Jackson returrned to the lineup Thursday and went 2 for 5 with a walk, two runs and two RBIs as the Quakes won 13-11 to complete a three-game sweep of the Mavericks. The Quakes, already in the playoffs also clinched a tie for the second-half title. They are now 77-59 overall, 39-27 in the second half.

Since the beginning of last week, the Quakes got a flurry of people back and they’ve been red-hot since, winning nine of 11 games. All nine of the wins have been by one or two runs.

  • Angelo Songco returned to the team after missing about a week to witness the birth of his son Casey.
  • Right fielder Blake Smith returned after missing two months from hernia surgery and promptly hit his 15th homer.
  • Manager Juan Bustabad returned after spending about a week home in Florida. His son has been in the hospital with pneumonia.
  • Broadcaster Mike Lindskog returned after missing three games while getting engaged to his girlfriend Ashley Totin in Ohio.
  • On Sunday, catcher J.T. Wise returned after missing nearly three weeks with an injury.

The Quakes might have another injury issue as reliever Jordan Roberts stumbled awkwardly while covering first base in the eighth inning Thursday. Although it initially looked like it could be a broken ankle, it now appears to be just sprained.