Unlikely or not, 66ers won Cal League title

Although admittedly I didn’t get to cover many games in the last half of the season, I have been considering how surprising a run it was for the 66ers to win their sixth California League title, sweeping San Jose in the best-of-five finals on Saturday night.

It was the franchise’s first and the first for an Angels affiliate since Lake Elsinore in 1996.

There are some similarities with this team and the last Sixers team to win a title, in 2006 as a Mariners affiliate.

That 2006 team, managed by Gary Thurman, won the first half in bizarre fashion. Poor scheduling left the Sixers a game short in the first half an a half game behind High Desert. So the Sixers’ last game of the 1st half (and High Desert’s first of the 2nd half) was a Sixer victory that tied them for the first half title. So the next game, also against High Desert was another Sixer win, and the first half title, clinching a playoff spot.

Then the team was gutted. Players were promoted and what was left was a rag-tag group primarily of non-prospects.

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Mavericks appoint new GM

The Seattle Mariners California League affiliate at High Desert will head into the 2014 season with a new general manager. Southern California native Ryan Cook has been appointed.

Cook has worked with numerous professional sports franchises, most notaby the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Hornets and Sacramento Kings. With both the Hornets and the Clippers, Cook set new records for monthly revenues for ticket sales and new business development.

Cook also has pro baseball experience, having worked for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Most recently, he has worked as an agent specializing in action sports for the Sports Syndicate in Newport Beach, California.

An All-American Water Polo player himself, Cook led the effort to develop an Olympic division at the Sports Syndicate, cultivating relationships with Olympic USA volleyball players, Team USA water polo players, Team USA swimmers, and USA water polo, the sport’s national governing body.

 

 

The announcement comes after the team and the City of Adelanto made major improvements to Mavericks Stadium in the spring of 2013.

 

The Mavericks open the 2014 season at home April 3, against Inland Empire.

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.

A look at the 66ers-Quakes playoff matchup

The Quakes and 66ers open the California League playoffs on Wednesday in a best-of-3 series against each other. Game 1 is in Rancho Cucamonga, Games 2 and 3, if necessary, are in San Bernardino.

Here is a look at the teams:

HEAD-TO-HEAD HISTORY
Last time the franchises met in the playoffs: 2004, 66ers won best-of-3, 2-0
Last time Dodgers and Angels’ affiliates met in the playoffs: 2000, San Bernardino Stampede (Dodgers) def. Lake Elsinore (Angels) 2-0.
66ers-Quakes all-time in playoffs: 66ers are 4-0
66ers-Quakes this year: 66ers won season series, 16-8.
Team head-to-head statistics: 66ers .281 BA, 16 errors, 4.08 ERA,; Quakes .256, 36 errors, 5.02 ERA.
Top head-to-head players on current roster: 66ers — Brian Hernandez (24 G, .407, 2 HR, 24 RBIs), Zach Borenstein (15 G, .466, 4 HR, 15 RBIs), Alex Yarbrough, (24 G, .321, 18 RBIs), Eric Cendejas (8G, 3-0, 1 SV, 1.69 ERA); Quakes — Bobby Coyle (9 G, .333, 5 HR), Chris Jacobs (14 G, .286, 4 HR, 10 RBIs), Scott Schebler (.22 G, .271, 3 HR, 13 RBIs), Darnell Sweeney (24 G, .293, 1 HR, 12 RBIs), Scott Wingo (.326); Matt Shelton (8 IP, 3 H, 0 R), Daniel Coulombe (1.93 ERA, 12 K, 9 1/3 IP)
OVERALL IN 2013
Records: 66ers 69-71, Quakes, 65-75
Pitching ranks: 66ers 4.64 ERA (fifth), Quakes 4.90 (seventh)
Runs scored: 66ers 675 (ninth), Quakes 728 (fourth)
Errors: 66ers 122 (fewest), Quakes 198 (most). Sixers infield of 1B Michael Snyder, 2B Alex Yarbrough, SS Eric Stamets and 3B Brian Hernandez lead the league in fielding percentage at their respective positions
Cal League postseason all-stars: 66ers — OF Zach Borenstein (MVP, .337, 28 HR, 95 RBIs), 1B Michael Snyder (.280, 25 HR, 92 RBIs), 2B Alex Yarbrough (.313, 11 HR, 80 RBIs, 14 SBs), P Mark Sappington (11-4, 3.37 ERA, promoted); Quakes — OF Scott Schebler (.296, 27 HRs, 91 RBIs).

MANAGERS PLAYOFF HISTORY
Quakes’ Carlos Subero: first time in playoffs in 4 years as Cal League manager
66ers’ Bill Haselman: 1st time in playoffs in 3 years as Cal League manager

 

Sixers Borenstein finishes just short of Triple Crown

Inland Empire outfielder Zach Borenstein narrowly missed hitting for the Triple Crown.

The Sixers standout finished with a California League-best batting average of .337. He also led the way in home runs (28), an unusual feat for a player whose home venue is the most notorious pitcher’s park in the 10-team league.

He ended up third in RBI with 95, 12 fewer than Andrew Aplin of Lancaster who played 16 more games.

He recorded career numbers in every offensive category except for doubles. (He had 22, three fewer than what he had last year). He made the midseason All-Star team and was named Cal League MVP just last week.

Borenstein, 23, was not ranked in the Angels organization’s Top 25 prospects by Baseball America but one would think he’ll be included in that next year.

Arizona Fall League rosters announced

The Arizona Fall League rosters for this year were announced and several current or former Quakes or 66ers were selected to play.

The Mesa Solar Sox, which includes minor leaguers from the Angels, A’s, Cubs, Nationals and Tigers, includes several former or current 66ers. Current 66ers include: league MVP OF Zach Borenstein, P R.J. Alvarez, and P Cam Bedrosian. Former 66ers include: C Jett Bandy, P Mike Morin, 2B Taylor Lindsey and 1B C.J. Cron.

The Glendale Desert Dogs, which includes minor leaguers from the Dodgers, Marlins, Twins, Reds and White Sox, has a few current or former Quakes. Current Quake coach Johnny Washington is on the coaching staff, and current Quakes C Pratt Maynard, C Chris O’Brien and 3B Corey Seager as well as ex-Quake OF Brian Cavazos-Galvez.

Players of the week named in Cal League

Both California League honors went to players from North Division teams this week.

Jonathan Gray of Modesto is the Pitcher of the Week. He had two starts and gave up just five hits and two runs (one earned) with one walk and a whopping 18 strikeouts in 10 innings.

  After four so-so Pioneer League outings, Gray jumped to the Cal League, where he has been utterly dominant. The 21-year-old Oklahoma product gave up 15 hits in 13 1/3 innings with Grand Junction; in 24 innings with Modesto, he’s allowed just 10 hits while striking out 36.

This was his second Pitcher of the Week honor in the Cal League.

Mac Williamson of San Jose is the Player of the Week. . The third-round pick out of Wake Forest in 2012 hit .481 (13 for 27) with three doubles, four home runs, 12 RBI and 10 runs scored.

Williamson has found his stride in the second half of his first full season. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound outfielder is batting .329 with with 15 homers and 49 RBI in 61 games since the All-Star break and has powered San Jose to nine straight wins.

Williamson homered four times in six games last week, has an extra-base hit in eight straight games and multiple hits in five of seven contests. The surge has pushed Williamson into third place in the Cal League homer race with 24 blasts.

 

66ers have clinched a playoff spot

It may not look like it on the surface but after emails with the league office and some computations, the 66ers have already clinched a playoff spot, entering play on Monday, even though they are only up on High Desert by 6 1/2 games and the Quakes by 7 games with 8 66ers games remaining. The top 2 teams from that group will make the playoffs.

Here’s how. If the 66ers lose their final 8, they are 67-73. Because the Quakes and High Desert play each other three times this week, they can’t both go undefeated. If one of them went undefeated and the Sixers went 0-8, the Sixers would still get in as the 2nd wild card.

If the 66ers went 0-8, the Quakes went 2-1 against High Desert and the Quakes and High Desert won all the rest of their games, there would be a three-way tie for two playoff spots, at 67-73.

What is the tie-breaker? Head-to-head against the other teams. Entering Monday, the Sixers are a combined 31-17 against the other two teams, giving them the tiebreaker advantage and leaving the Quakes and High Desert to play a one-game playoff next Tuesday for the final spot.

While that scenario is highly unlikely, a two-way tie between the Quakes and High Desert for the final spot is a very real possibility. The host team for that one-game playoff is based on head-to-head. High Desert leads the head-to-head 11-9, so the Quakes would have to sweep this week in order to get to host a one-game playoff.

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