Sixers sweep Quakes

The Inland Empire 66ers did not want to face Rancho Cucamonga ace Steve Shell in a decisive game three of the playoffs. In order for that to happen, the Sixers had to sweep the Quakes with a decisive win on Thursday night. Inland Empire did just that, taking care of business in game two of the best-of-three series and eliminated the Quakes from the playoffs with a 5-3 victory in front of 1,852 fans at Arrowhead Credit Union Park.

For the second straight night, the Sixers starting pitching went deep into the game as left-hander Bobby Livingston pitched 7.1 innings and did not allow a run until the seventh. By then the Sixers were already up by five.

Also for the second night in a row, outfielder Wladimir Balentien provided the thunder by cracking a home run over the left field fence. It was Balentien's second of the playoffs and fourth since coming to the Sixers in late August.

The home run by the right fielder in the fourth gave the Sixers a two-run lead and jump-started the offense.

Inland Empire plated three more runners in the inning. The top third of the inning drove in the three runs, led by doubles off the bat of Gary Harris and Jesus Guzman, which sandwiched a Juan Gonzalez base hit.

But like Wednesday night, the Quakes fought back to make the game interesting in the late innings.

Livingston began to wear down in the eighth and left after giving up a RBI double to Reggie Willits. Cesar Jimenez came in and on the very first pitch to Carlos Duncan, the designated hitter crushed the ball over the center field wall to creep the Quakes to within two at 5-3.

That proved to be the only scare, as Jimenez shut the door in the ninth with a perfect inning.

Thanks to the sweep, the Sixers will have tomorrow off before traveling to Lancaster for games one and two of the Southern Division Championship Series. It also saves the pitching staff from having to use Thomas Oldham, who will be given the ball in game one. They will send Juan Sandoval to the mound in game two.

The series victory was the first for manager Daren Brown in his Seattle Mariners tenure. Brown had failed to guide a team past the first round in each of his previous attempts in the professional level. The series victory will quickly be a thing of the past, however, as Brown and the Sixers will have to try to get past Lancaster, which won 86 games this year.

The Jethawks led the season series against the Sixers, 15-13, but that could have been easily been reversed. Inland Empire blew two leads in the ninth inning at Lancaster in May.

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