When Carlos Subero was appointed as the manager of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes last off-season, he had some mighty big shoes to fill – those of former Quakes manager Juan Bustabad, who was the 2011 Cal League Manager of the Year and who led the Quakes into their second playoff appearance in as many years. Bustabad, who left the Dodger organization prior to the 2013 season to spend more time with his family and to coach high school baseball near his West Palm Beach home, had also been named the Midwest League Manager of the Year in 2010 while leading the Great Lakes Loons into the playoffs as well. As it turned out, Subero filled those shoes well, although it sure didn’t appear that way in the beginning.
Those who followed the Quakes during the 2013 season know that Subero’s team struggled in the first half, finishing with a rather dismal 31-39 record and a full eight games behind the first half Cal League South division winning Lancaster JetHawks. But Subero turned things around for the Dodgers Advanced Single-A affiliate Quakes to finish the second half with a 34-36 record, good enough to capture the final Cal League South Wild Card berth and a trip to the 2013 playoffs.
What turned things around for Subero’s team in the second half?
“The hard word and the learning process that takes place after the first half, it’s always a learning process,” Subero said following Monday’s afternoon’s regular season finale. “We stuck with the path and not the results. Sometimes the results are not the direct proof of what’s going on on the baseball field.
“But besides that I think the personal growth from an individual standpoint was great,” Subero added. “From a collective standpoint, learning how to play as a team and grinding it out and having to battle it out this last week against the best team in the league record-wise, to get into the playoff wasn’t any easier. It was against the best team in the league and they were all extra inning games. The atmosphere it created and how to deal with that pressure is something that is going to help all of these guys down the line.”
One of the unsung heroes for the Quakes this season has been utility infielder Scott Wingo, who spent much of the final month of the season at third base after the arrival of Dodgers top shortstop prospect Corey Seager in early August. With Seager at short, Subero moved Darnell Sweeney over to second base and Wingo to third base, where he played near-flawless baseball.
And what did Wingo have to say about winning the Wild Card and a trip to the Cal League playoffs?
“It’s exciting, we’re ready to go,” said the former University of South Carolina Gamecock and 2011 College World Series ‘Most Outstanding Player.’ “Last time I went to the playoffs was (Rookie League) Ogden, so I’m ready to roll. I like our team right now. We got a little hot at the end of the year and were able to get in. We’re hitting our stride and ready to go.”
Asked what turned things around for the Quakes after a rough first half, Wingo said that it was a team effort.
“Guys stepped up, guys like Scott Schebler who really carried us in July… shoot, all the way through the second half. We all just started playing better. Our pitching stepped up and our hitters stepped up.”
As for the playoffs, Wingo likes their chances.
“I think the playoffs are going to come down to pitching and defense and some timely hitting. Hopefully we play some good games and get there to the championship,” said the 24-year-old Greenville, South Carolina native.
The Quakes will face the Inland Empire 66ers, their nearest and fiercest rivals and first half Cal League South Wild Card winners, in a best of three ‘Mini Series” beginning on Wednesday evening, September 4, at LoanMart Field in Rancho Cucamonga at 7:05 PM. Games two and three (if necessary) will be held at San Manual Stadium in San Bernardino on Thursday and Friday evenings, September 5 and 6, also at 7:05 PM. The winner of the Mini Series will move on to face the defending Cal League champion Lancaster JetHawks for the Divisional Finals at the Hangar on Saturday evening, September 7, at 7 PM, while the loser will pack their bags and head home for the long off-season.