The Los Angeles Dodgers’ High-A affiliate Rancho Cucamonga Quakes won the California League Championship on Saturday night, defeating the San Jose Giants. It’s the Quakes’ first championship since 1994 and the Dodgers’ first affiliate championship since the Arizona League Dodgers won in 2011.
First baseman Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers’ No. 9 prospect, was named the series MVP. Rancho, a Dodgers’ affiliate since 2011, paced the South Division in the first half with a 41-29 record, clinching a playoff berth before the All Star break.
In the second half, the Quakes went 37-33, tallying an overall record of 78-62. The Giants, a Wild Card team, had a higher winning percentage when they clinched, giving them home field advantage.
The series began in Rancho Cucamonga, where the Quakes sent Chase De Jong to the mound for the opener. De Jong, acquired midseason for international slot money, had gone 6.2 shutout innings in the division series opener and gave the team another quality start in the championship series, surrendering just two runs in six innings while striking out half a dozen.
The Giants took a two-run lead in the third, before the Quakes came back to tie the game in the fith. Rancho broke the game open in the following inning, scoring seven runs in the sixth, including homers from Tyler Ogle and Jacob Scavuzzo. The Quakes ended up dominating Game 1, winning 12-3.
Game 2 saw less offense but similar drama in the later innings. After Tim Locastro singled in Spencer Navin in the third inning, the Giants came back with a run in the fith to tie it. Rancho broke the tie in the seventh, adding three runs on singles from Scavuzzo and Alex Verdugo, the latter giving the Quakes a very important three-run cushion.
The club took that lead into the ninth inning, when they handed the ball off to closer Josh Sborz, who promptly surrendered three singles and three wild pitches, leading to a pair of San Jose runs. However, with the tying run on second base, Sborz induced a game-ending double play to get a win for the Quakes in Game 2.
A late-night bus ride sent the series up to San Jose, with the Giants looking to stay alive at home. Early in the game, it looked like a pitcher’s duel was on the docket, as the Quakes were held without a baserunner through four innings, and the Giants stranded six runners in the first three innings.
Rancho broke the seal in the fith inning, with back-to-back doubles from Bellinger and Verdugo to lead off the inning, putting the Quakes up 1-0. The two would contribute another run in the following inning, with Bellinger collecting another double and Verdugo singling him in, padding the lead to 2-0.
Then, in the eighth inning, Bellinger launched a no-doubt two-run home run to put the Quakes up 4-0. Starter Trevor Oaks went 7.1 scoreless innings and was backed up by Kyle Hooper, who lucked into a double play to end the eighth.
In the ninth Scavuzzo doubled in Navin to add an insurance run, before Michael Johnson collected a pair of strikeouts to end the series and send the Quakes home as champions.
Manager Bill Haselman, in his first season with the Quakes and his second with the organization, did a fantastic job in guiding the team to the league championship.
Series-MVP Bellinger was 6-for-14 with one home run and three doubles in the three-game set, pacing the team’s offense. The pitching staff deserves an enormous amount of credit, holding the Giants to just six runs in three games.
It was a sensational year and now it’s time for Quakes players and coaches, as well as the fans, to celebrate.