66ers take South title, beat Lancaster 4-3 in 15 innings

Given the stakes, it could go down as one of the greatest games in California League history, which began 72 years ago.
Abel Baker’s fifth hit of the game, a double with two outs in the top of the 15th, scored Angel Rosa with the go-ahead run and the 66ers downed Lancaster 4-3 in Game 5 of the South Division Finals.
The Sixers will host San Jose in the best-of-5 South Division Finals beginning Thursday at San Manuel Stadium, after San Jose downed Visalia 9-5 in Game 5 of the North Finals on Wednesday. Game 2 of the Championship Series is also in San Bernardino. Games 3, 4 and 5 are in San Jose Saturday-Monday, if necessary.
Here are some of the remarkable aspects of the game:

  • The game not only lasted 15 innings, but 5 hours, 31 minutes.
  • The Sixers were down to their final out before Brian Hernandez singled home Zach Borenstein from second base in the top of the ninth to tie the score 3-3.
  • There were plenty of opportunities, but some remarkable pitching (or poor clutch hitting depending on how you look at it). The Sixers had 22 hits but left 22 on base and were 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position. The JetHawks had 13 hits but left 16 on base and were 4 for 16 with RISP.
  • Sixers reliever Ty Kelley (1-1) pitched out of not 1, but 2, bases-loaded, no-out situations, 1 each in the 13th and 14th innings. The first time was a strikeout then a double play, the second time was a double play and then a strikeout.

The Sixers had a losing record in the regular season, but are advancing to the Cal League Championship Series. Is that rare? It is, but not as rare as you might think. Lake Elsinore did that in 2011 en route to winning the league title, the San Bernardino Stampede did it in 1997 before falling in the finals. Bakersfield did it in 1984 before losing in the finals.

Sixers’ Borenstein is league MVP

Inland Empire outfielder-designated hitter Zach Borenstein, 23, has been named California League Most Valuable Player.

Borenstein is leading the league in hitting (.332) and slugging percentage (.628), is second in home runs (25) and fourth in RBI (87). He was on the disabled list for a month with a hip injury which possibly cost him a shot at a Triple Crown.

He has notched career highs in every offensive category except doubles.
Borenstein is the first Sixer to earn MVP honors since Carlos Santana in 2008, Santana played in San Bernardino when it was a Dodgers affiliate and is now the starting catcher for the Cleveland Indians.

Borenstein led a group of four players from Inland Empire who earned All-Star team. The others are second baseman Alex Yarbrough, first baseman Michael Snyder and pitcher Mark Sappington. All are still with the Sixers except for Sappington who was promoted to Double-A Arkansas three weeks ago.

The lone representative for Rancho Cucamonga is outfielder Scott Schebler who is hitting .307 with a league-high 23 home runs and eighth in RBI (83) and is hitting .274.

Rodney Linares of Lancaster is the Manager of the Year. His team is 75-54 overall. The JetHawks won the South Division first half and have a seven-game lead in the second with 11 games left.

Dan Winkler (12-5, 2.97) of the Modesto Nuts is the Pitcher of the Year.

Here’s the whole list of honorees:

MVP – Zach Borenstein, Inland Empire

Manager of the Year – Rodney Linares, Lancaster

Pitcher of the Year – Dan Winkler, Modesto

Rookie of the Year – Addison Russell, Stockton

Catcher – Ryan Casteel, Modesto

First base – Michael Snyder, Inland Empire

Second base – Alex Yarbrough, Inland Empire

Third base – Matt Duffy, Lancaster

Shortstop – Addison Russell, Stockton

Utility – M.P. Cokinos, Lancaster

Designated hitter – Zach Borenstein, Inland Empire

Outfielder – Scott Schebler, Rancho Cucamonga

Outfielder – Andrew Aplin, Lancaster

Outfielder – Travis Jankwoski, Lake Elsinore

Pitcher – Mark Sappington, Inland Empire

Pitcher – Ty Blach, San Jose

Pitcher – Dan Winkler, Modesto

Pitcher, Andrew Barbosa, Visalia

 

 

 

Velasquez knocked out in fourth inning of Cal League debut

Vincent Velasquez, a Garey High product who was the 58th overall pick by the Houston Astros in the 2010 draft, made his California League debut on Tuesday for Lancaster.

After allowing three baserunners and no runs in the first three innings, the right-handed Velasquez ran into trouble against host Lake Elsinore.

In the fourth, he allowed 10 men to come to the plate as the Storm scored five runs on a home run, two walks, five singles and a wild pitch. He was replaced with two outs.

His final line: 3 2/3 innings, seven hits, five earned runs, three walks, four strikeouts, one hit batter and one wild pitch. He threw 79 pitches. He also took the loss in a 5-4 Lake Elsinore win.

Players of the week named

High Desert's Patrick Kivlehan drove in 16 runs over six games last week.

Tanner Peters of Stockton and Patrick Kivlehan of High Desert earned weekly accolades in the California League this week.

Kivlehan, a 23-year-old third baseman out of Rutgers, went 13 for 25 (.520) with three doubles, three home runs and 16 RBI.  Kivlehan’s week was highlighted in a 5-for-7 showing in a 30-8 win over Lancaster on Friday. The Mariners prospect, who was the MVP of the Northwest League last summer, is hitting .328 with 39 RBI in 49 games since joining the Mavericks.

Peters, 23, came within two outs of throwing a perfect game on Friday against Modesto. He retired the first 25 batters he faced before yielding a one-out double in the ninth. Peters struck out a career-high 14 batters to give him 132 on the season — second-most in the A’s organization and third-most in the Cal League. He has won his last four decisions to improve to 11-5..

Tanner Peters ranks among the Cal League leaders in wins, ERA and strikeouts.

“Best Tools” singles out top players

Kyle Crick has a 1.58 ERA in 45 2/3 innings for San Jose.

Baseball America has announced the results of its annual Best Tools survey which asks the managers in each league to evaluate the prospects they think are best at each position in each facet of the game.

Inlnad Empire had one player singled out as Alex Yarbrough was named Best Defensive Second Baseman. I think Eric Stamets should have been named Best Defensive Shortstop but Modesto’s Trevor Story was named.

Rancho Cucamonga’s Jon Garcia, who has since been promoted, was named Best Outfield Arm.

Here is the rundown:

Best Batting Prospect – Addison Russell, Stockton

Best Power Prospect – Mac Williamson, San Jose

Best Strike Zone Judgment – Nolan Fontana, Lancaster

Best Baserunner – Travis Jankowksi, Lake Elsinore

Fastest Baserunner – Travis Jankowski, Lake Elsinore

Best Pitching Prospect – Kyle Crick, San Jose

Best Fastball – Kyle Crick, San Jose

Best Breaking Pitch – Clayto Blackburn, San Jose

Best Changeup – Tanner Peters, Stockton

Best Control – Ty Blach, San Jose

Best Reliever – Jake Barrett, Visalia

Best Defensive Catcher – Austin Hedges, Lake Elsinore

Best Defensive 1B – Max Muncy, Stockton

Best Defensive 2B – Alex Yarbourgh, Inland Empire

Best Defensive 3B – Juan Silverio, Bakersfield

Best Defensive SS – Trevor Story, Modesto

Best Infield Arm – Trevor Story, Modesto

Best Defensive OF – Travis Jankoswki, Lake Elsinore

Best Outfield Arm – Jon Garcia, Rancho Cucamonga

Most Exciting Player – Addison Russell, Stockton

Best Managerial Prospect – Webster Garrison, Stockton

 

 

 

Sixers, Quakes back in action tonight

The Inland Empire 66ers and Rancho Cucamona Quakes both return from an off day in pursuit of a California League playoff berth and will start a head-to-head three-game set at 7:05 tonight at San Manuel Stadium.

The Sixers (58-50 overall, 21-17 second half) finished second to Lancaster in the first half and are second in the second, two games behind that same opponent. They are in good position to make the postseason as a wild card if they don’t win the half at 4 1/2 games better than Seattle affiliate High Desert and eight better than the Quakes for the second playoff spot.

If Lancaster, a Houston Astros affiliate, wins the second half too, the two teams with the next best records would advance.

The Quakes (50-58, 19-19) have been a much better team in the second half and come into the set having won seven straight series. They are four games behind Lancaster for the half and 3 1/2 behind High Desert for the second wild card, assuming Lancaster wins the second half.

The Sixers are led by reigning Cal League Player of the Week Zach Borenstein while outfielder Scott Schebler has spearheaded the Quakes resurgence.

Carlos Frias (2-3, 4.11) is the scheduled starter for the Quakes while the Sixers counter with All-Star Mark Sappington(10-4, 3.42).

 

JetHawk named Player of Week

Designated hitter M.P. Cokinos of Lancaster is this week’s California League Offensive Player of the Week. He hit .545 (6 for 11) with two doubles, a hone run, five RBI and seven runs scored in a four-game sweep of Rancho Cucamonga.

Cokinos, 23, has played 47 games and its hitting .339 with 16 doubles, six home runs and 43 RBI.

Pitcher of the Week honors went to Shane Dyer of Bakersfield. He held High Desert to four hits and went seven innings in his only start of the week. He didn’t walk a hitter and struck out five.

Dyer, 25, is 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA in four starts for the Blaze, a Reds affiliate.

Second half starts today

Ryan McCurdy picked up two hits on Sunday.

All 10 California League teams return from the All-Star break today and begin the second set of 70 games.

Inland Empire, which finished second to Lancaster in the first half, will host Padres affiliate Lake Elsinore at 7:05 p.m. at San Manuel Stadium. Orangel Arenas (3-3, 6.19) will be on the mound for the Sixers.

Rancho Cucamonga will be on the road with a series at Lancaster, an affiliate of the Houston Astros.

In other games, High Desert will be at Bakersfield, San Jose at Stockton and Visalia at Modesto. San Jose was the first half champion in the North Division.

 

Sixers win in dramatic fashion

Walkoff wins are always exciting. When it’s with a home run, it’s even better. Now put a first-half title and playoff berth on the line, well it doesn’t get much better than that.

The Inland Empire 66ers won in that fashion on Wednesday as Alex Yarbrough roped a three-run shot to left with one out in the bottom of the 11th for a 7-4 win over Stockton at San Manuel Stadium.

It was huge because Lancaster beat High Desert 10-3 to stay two games in front with four left. That still might be tough to overcome but three out with four left would have been almost impossible.

The Sixers (35-31) stormed the field and Yarbrough was later the recipient of a shaving cream pie during the on-field post-game interview.

The Sixers still have a tough go. They now play four against High Desert (32-34) to end the half while Lancaster (37-29) has last-place Lake Elsinore (26-40), although the Storm have been playing much better lately.

Nothing beats a pennant race!

 

 

 

 

 

California League rosters announced

Mark Sappington is 5-0 with a 2.05 ERA in nine starts for the 66ers.

The California League All-Star team that will take on one from the Carolina League on June 18 in San Jose has been announced. Both local teams are represented.

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE

Pitchers

Jake Barrett, Visalia Rawhide; Ty Blach, San Jose Giants; Carlos Contreras, Bakersfield Blaze; Edwin Escobar, San Jose Giants; Drew Grenier, Stockton Ports; Chris Jensen, Modesto Nuts; *El’Hajj Muhammed, Bakersfield Blaze; Josh Osich, San Jose Giants; Brady Rodgers, Lancaster JetHawks; Mark Sappington, Inland Empire 66ers; *Hunter Strickland, San Jose Giants; Dan Winkler, Modesto Nuts.

Catchers

Jeff Arnold, San Jose Giants; Robert Kral, Lake Elsinore Storm.

Infielders

*Ryan Cavan, San Jose Giants; *JiMan Choi, High Desert Mavericks; Matt Duffy, Lancaster JetHawks; *Jake Lamb, Visalia Rawhide; Geson Montilla, Visalia Rawhide; *Ryan Mount, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes; Max Muncey, Stockton Ports; *Cory Spangenberg, Lake Elsinore Storm; Chris Taylor, High Desert Mavericks; Angela Villalona, San Jose Giants; Alex Yarbrough, Inland Empire 66ers.

Outfielders

Andrew Aplin, Lancaster JetHawks; Jabari Blash, High Desert Mavericks; Zach Borenstein, Inland Empire 66ers; Noel Cuevas, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes;Preston Tucker, Lancaster JetHawks.

Field staff (All San Jose)

Andy Skeets, Manager; Mike Couchee, pitching coach; Lipso Nava, hitting coach; Dave Getsoff, trainer; Dustin Brooks, strength and conditioning.

* Denotes player who will not play due to promotion or injury