With their backs to the wall and on the verge of playoff elimination, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes pulled a rabbit out of their collective hats on Thursday night to force a third and deciding game in the Cal League South best-of-three Wild Card Mini Series with an exciting 10-inning 8-5 win over the Inland Empire 66ers at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino.
Trailing 5-3 heading into the top of the 8th inning and ignited by a Scott Schebler walk, back-to-back singles by Darnell Sweeney and O’Koyea Dickson and an RBI ground out by Bobby Coyle, the Quakes tied the must-win game 5-5, thus giving them a chance to advance to the Divisional Series.
Given new live, the Quakes bullpen went into action as Edwin Carl pitched 3.2 scoreless innings allowing only one hit while striking out 4. With two outs in the bottom of the 9th, Daniel Coulombe was brought in and faced one batter, forcing 66ers left fielder Zach Borenstein to ground out to second on two pitches to force the game into extra innings.
Wasting no time, Schebler led off the top of the 10th inning with a line drive single up the middle. Sweeney’s attempt to sacrifice Schebler over to second base failed when he popped up a bunt that was caught by 66ers catcher Anthony Bemboom in foul territory. Sixers pitcher Ty Kelley was obviously concerned with keeping Schebler close to first base as he kept throwing over there in a series of pick-off attempts. Sure enough, Kelley ended up throwing the ball away allowing Schebler to advance all the way to third base.
With only one out and a 3-1 count on the power-hitting Dickson, 66ers manager Bill Haselman opted to intentionally walk Dickson to set up a double play. The move failed as Coyle followed with a sharp single to right on the first pitch scoring Schebler with the go ahead run and Coyle’s third RBI of the night. With runners on first and second, Noel Cuevas also swung at the first pitch driving a fly ball into the the right field gap scoring Dickson and moving Coyle to third. Cuevas was thrown out at second base trying to stretch his single into a double for the second out of the inning.
Now leading 7-5 and with Dodgers 2012 first round draft pick Corey Seager at the plate, Kelley uncorked a wild pitch allowing Coyle to score from third base making the score 8-5. Seager then flied out to left to end the inning.
Quakes closer Craig Stem was brought on to pitch the bottom half of the inning and retired the 66ers in order to give the Quakes the victory and tying the series at one game apiece, thus extending the chance for the Quakes to advance to the Division Series which begins on Saturday night at the Hangar in Lancaster against the JetHawks. Ironically, it was Coulombe who picked up the win on his two pitches in the bottom of the 9th. Stem, who earned three saves during his short time with the Quakes in the regular season, collected the save in Thursday’s crucial playoff game.