JETHAWKS NOTEBOOK `GREAT YEAR' COMES TO END FOR 'HAWKS LOSS TO SAN BERNARDINO CAN'T MINIMIZE SUCCESS.
LANCASTER - The JetHawks rebounded from one of the worst records in professional baseball last year to become the most successful team in the California League this season.
Their ride ended abruptly Tuesday when they lost 4-1 in the final game of their best-of-five South Division championship series against San Bernardino.
``It was a great year,'' said JetHawks third baseman Bo Robinson. ``I hate that it has to end this way, but you have to give a lot of credit to San Bernardino. They played with a lot of guts being down 2-0 and beating us three straight. I know how hard that is.''
The Stampede, the defending league champion, turned the series around by shutting down the league's most dangerous offense. San Bernardino, which led the league in ERA over the regular season, limited the JetHawks to six runs in the final three games of the series.
The complexion of the series changed dramatically in game three, when Carlos Garcia, the California League's pitcher of the year, struck out 13 batters in 7 2/3 innings to lead San Bernardino to a 3-2 win.
The JetHawks managed to score only three runs in a 15-inning marathon Monday night at San Bernardino, a game they eventually lost 4-3.
``That's when we started swinging the bats bad, after we faced him,'' Robinson said of the impact of Garcia on the series.
``We're used to scoring a lot of runs, but they just shut us down,'' said first baseman Peanut Williams. ``They made a lot of the plays they needed to make to win the ballgames. That's the way it happens.
All the statistical data favored the JetHawks in the decisive fifth game. The JetHawks had won 31 of the their last 35 games at Lancaster Municipal Stadium, and 11 of 12 home games against San Bernardino, which was 11-37 overall in the five-year history of the Hangar.
But the JetHawks, who were struggling offensively, ran into another hot pitcher, Eric Junge, who threw his first complete game of the season, allowing six hits and one run in a 4-1 San Bernardino win. He struck out 10 batters and allowed two walks.
Before Tuesday night's game, the JetHawks - who led the league with a 6.7 runs per game average and were shut out just three times all season - hadn't been held to fewer than two runs at home this year.
The JetHawks offense seemed to be on track in the first inning, when they had three hits - all singles - off Junge, but that rally produced one run, and Lancaster was limited to three more hits over the next eight innings.
After the Stampede scored three runs in the top of the third, the JetHawks had just five baserunners, only one of whom got as far as second base.
``It was definitely the biggest game we had all year, but we didn't come through,'' said JetHawks manager Mark Parent. ``It's sad, but that's the way it goes.
``The guys have done their work. They've done their early work and they've done what it takes to put them in that game, but somebody's got to lose and that just happened to be us. It's a learning experience, and that's what the minor leagues are all about.''
San Bernardino opened its fourth league-championship series in six years Wednesday night in Visalia.
--Playoff no-no: In other California League playoff action Tuesday, Scott Chiasson and Corey Miller combined on a no-hitter to lead the Visalia Oaks to an 8-3 win in the decisive fifth game of their divisional-championship series with the Modesto A's.
An effectively wild Chiasson, who surrendered all three runs, allowed six walks and three hit batsmen and had seven strikeouts in six innings.
All three runs charged to Chiasson were earned.
Miller struck out three batters and did not allow a walk in three scoreless innings.
(color) Right-handed pitcher Caleb Balbuena contributed significantly to the success of the JetHawks this past season.
Gene Blevins/Special to the Daily News