The Inland Empire 66ers are moving on to the 2013 California League Southern Division playoffs and the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes are going home for the long cold winter – it’s as simple as that. But anyone who attended the three-game Wild Card Mini-Series or listened to longtime Quakes play-by-play man Mike Lindskog’s call of the games on-line know that it was anything but a simple series. If fact, it was one of the hardest fought and best played Wild Card series in recent memory.
The magic that the Quakes had found in Thursday night’s dramatic 8-5 come-from-behind win to force a third and deciding game-3 in the best of three Wild Card Mini Series fell just short on Friday night as the 66ers rallied back in the bottom of the 9th to beat the Quakes 7-6 on a walk-off single by 66ers second baseman Alex Yarbrough.
Down 5-3 heading into the top of the 9th, the Quakes rallied for three runs on a leadoff home run by O’Koyea Dickson followed by singles by Noel Cuevas, Corey Seager and Scott Wingo. to take a precarious 6-5 lead into the bottom of the 9th.
Quakes manager Carlos Subero brought in closer Craig Stem to try to catch lightening in a bottle for a second consecutive night, but this time the 6′ 5″ 215-pound right-hander couldn’t get it done giving up a leadoff single to 66ers right fielder Gary Mitchell, who was sacrificed bunted over to second base by 66ers third baseman Sherman Johnson. That would be the only out that Stem would record as shortstop Eric Stamets and Yarbrough had back-to-back singles to drive in the tying and winning runs respectively in a crushing and season-ending loss for the Quakes.
Although the bottom line (and box score) will simply show that Inland Empire won and Rancho Cucamonga lost, the Quakes showed tremendous heart and refused to give up, even when down 5-3 on consecutive nights and rallying back to take the lead on both nights. On Thursday night they prevailed, on Friday night they did not.
The 66ers will have no time to rest as they face the Lancaster JetHawks on Saturday evening for game-1 of the Cal League South Divisional playoffs. Game time is 7 PM at The Hangar in Lancaster.