Inland Empire wins Series 3-2
San Bernandino-Inland Empire stormed back from a 2-1 deficit in the California League Championship series, scoring one run in the bottom of the eighth to defeat the Visalia Oaks 2-1 last night. Johan Limota doubled in the winning run, and Josh Womack hit a solo shot for the 66ers, who won the series 3-2.
The Oaks were plagued by a lack of offense yet again, and scored but three runs over the final two games of the series. Not one Visalia player had multiple base hits, and the team as a whole registered just five on the day in the losing effort, and they scored their lone run in the top of the sixth inning. That is disappointing when you consider the Oaks had the bases loaded and no outs before John Jaso brought home the first run on a sac fly.
The Oaks were shut down by 66ers pitching, and the bullpen did a spectacular job in relief of starter Mumba Rivera, who left after five innings. Jose De La Cruz, the former Devil Ray farmhand dealt at the beginning of the year to Seattle in the Marcos Carvajal trade, picked up the save in a twist of irony for Inland Empire.
Derek Feldkamp got the start for Visalia and surrendered one run on six hits and one walk over 5.1 innings, while striking out one. Richard De Los Santos got the loss for the Oaks, giving up the winning run over 2.2 innings of work, giving up three hits and striking out two.
Jaso had the only extra base hit of the day for Visalia, a double, while Robert Asanovich, Josh Arhart, Shaun Cumberland, and Chris Nowak each also picked up singles for the Oaks. In addition, Cumberland was caught stealing.
The loss ends an amazing season for Visalia. After one and a half awful seasons as the Rays' High-A affiliate, the Oaks stormed back to win the season's second half title, powered by stellar performances from Reid Brignac and Evan Longoria, as well as Sergio Pedroza and a whole supporting cast of pitchers. Even after Longoria and Brignac were promoted, the Oaks continued to win, and finished the second half 42-28, first place in the California League's Northern Division. They dispatched Stockton and San Jose in the playoffs to reach the title series, and had a 2-1 lead going into Sunday night before dropping the final two games in the best of five series. Nonetheless, this can't be called anything but a successful season for Visalia, and if the affiliation shuffle results in a new High-A affiliate, then this was a hell of a way to go out.