The Modesto Athletics have won the 2004 California League Championship. With a tough 4-3 win over the Lancaster JetHawks, the A's clinched their first championship in twenty years. The victory capped a stellar season for the Lil'A's, who won both halves of the regular season division championship in addition to the post-season crown. The A's came back from the brink of elimination, as they were down two game to one before beating the JetHawks on Sunday to force the elimination Game 5 on Monday.
The A's began the game on a strong note, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning on a two-out double by Omar Quintanilla. Modesto tacked on two more runs in the top of the third inning. With one out, Lloyd Turner dragged a bunt to the leftside, reaching first safely. He then stole second and was driven in with a single by Cal League MVP Brian Stavisky. After a Jason Perry strike out, Quintanilla walked and Isaac Garcia singled to right, scoring Stavisky from second.
Those runs had to hold up for the A's, as the Lancaster pitching staff clamped down on the A's offense after the third, limiting the A's to three hits and three walks the rest of the way. The Modesto pitching staff was up to the task, however. As it has all season, the A's bullpen stepped up big to keep the JetHawks from tying the game. Starter Jared Burton was only able to last 3.2 innings, as he gave up two 4th inning runs and was lifted with runners on second and third and two outs. Keith Perez came in for Burton at that point and he got the A's out of the jam by popping up Jarred Ball to second base.
Perez threw two more shut-out innings before giving way to Shawn Kohn. Kohn worked a one-two-three 7th inning and retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the 8th inning before being lifted for former Independent League reliever Nick Brannon. Brannon retired the only batter he faced to end the bottom of the 8th.
Jeff Coleman came on the bottom of the 9th inning with the A's clinging to the 4-2 lead. He retired the lead-off hitter Dan Uggla on a groundout to short. However, the game became more interesting when Jon Zeringue doubled to right field. Coleman retired Jay Garthwaite on a deep fly out to centerfield, which moved Uggla to third. Lancaster firstbaseman Sean Luellwitz was all that stood between the A's and the championship, but he wasn't ready for his season to end. He doubled to left, scoring Uggla and cutting the A's lead in half to 4-3. Coleman was now faced with a situation of having the tying run out on second base. However, he dug deep and retired Phil Avlas on a fly-out to center and the A's were 2004 champions. Keith Perez was the winning pitcher for the A's and Coleman picked up the heart-stopping save.
The Modesto squad is the second Oakland A's affiliate to win a league championship this year (AAA Sacramento won the PCL championship over the weekend).
Lil'A's are 2004 California League Champions
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