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.
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.
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.
The 66ers have changed utilitymen as the Angels released Redlands East Valley High product Trevor Hairgrove, and replaced him with Chance Ross. Hairgrove, who batted .194 in 51 games for the Sixers, was given his release on Monday, when the team returned from a road trip to Visalia. Hairgrove was 2 for 4 with a double in his final Sixers game.
Ross had spent time with the Sixers in May, when Hairgrove had a temporary assignment with Double-A Arkansas. With the Sixers, Ross was 7 for 29 (.241) with one home run and three RBIs. Most recently, he was with low Single-A Burlington, where he batted .250 with three home runs and 17 RBIs in 40 games. He also played one game for Triple-A Salt Lake in May.
In other news, another Redlands East Valley product, Tommy Hanson, is scheduled to make a rehabilitation start for the Sixers at home at San Manuel Stadium on Thursday vs. Lancaster.
Here is the 2014 Cal League schedule, if you click on the link below. Quakes open at home on April 3, play the 66ers for the first time, at home on April 7, and 66ers open at home on April 10.
66ers will host on July 4, Quakes on July 3.
2014 California League Schedule(1)
The Quakes and 66ers each made roster moves in advance of their series finale on Tuesday at San Manuel Stadium.
The Sixers had yet another pitcher go down with an injury, as right-hander Daniel Tillman went to the DL with a strained flexor tendon in his pitching arm. Tillman, who pitched for the Sixers the last two years, had made only two appearances since rejoining the team, the last time on July 4. In his place, the Sixers got right-hander Jairo Diaz. Diaz was 0-3 with a 3.97 ERA and eight saves for low Single-A Burlington before joining the Sixers.
The Quakes, meanwhile, brought outfielder Bobby Coyle off the disabled list. Since joining the team from Double-A Chattanooga a week ago, Coyle had been on the disabled list with an illness. Although he batted just .141 at Double-A, he did hit .288 with two home runs in 18 games with the Quakes earlier this season. To make room for Coyle, outfielder Devin Shines was placed on the disabled list.
Both the Quakes and 66ers opened the 2013 California League season at home on Thursday night, and both came through with exciting victories.
After blowing a 4-0 lead, the Sixers’ Ryan Jones’ third hit of the game, a single with one out in the 12th inning, scored the game-winning walk-off run in a 5-4 win over Modesto before 3,128 at San Manuel Stadium.
Meanwhile, the Quakes rallied from a 4-0 deficit and Scott Schebler’s three-run homer with two outs in the eighth lifted the Quakes to a 5-4 win over Lake Elsinore before 3,811 at newly renamed LoanMart Field.