Runs on 22 Hits and 8 Errors
Game one’s box score shows a game dominated by good pitching. Game two’s
was an offensive free for all, chock full of errors. Modesto lead off batter and
DH Eduardo Cornejo, and California League MVP and left fielder Brian Stavisky,
each managed a perfect performance at the plate in game two.
Cornejo went 3 for 3, scored three runs with one RBI. Stavisky batted 4 for 4
and added two runs and two RBI in a game where 17 of the 21 runs were scored in
the first three innings of play.
Lancaster starter AJ Shappi walked the first two batters he faced and
eventually ended the inning down 3-0. Shappi lasted only one and one-third
inning, giving up two hits and six runs with two earned. Cliff McMachen relieved
Shappi and lasted just as long: one and a third. His six runs allowed were all
earned on three hits and two walks.
A six run third inning put Modesto up 12-5 and the A’s never looked back,
winning 13-8 and tying the series at one game apiece.
It was a game to forget for the JetHawks.
JetHawk manager Wally Backman succinctly summed up the three hour and
fourteen minute offensive marathon.
"Wasn’t that just about the ugliest game you’ve ever seen?"
Jon Zeringue added two RBI’s to bring his league post season leading total
A’s 13, JetHawks 8
Friday, September 17
Series tied 1-1
The Hangar, Lancaster
A Clear Case of Who Want’s It More
The Lancaster JetHawks have a mascot named Ka-BOOM and players who hustle
around from second base to home on a bottom of the tenth inning base hit in a
tie ballgame, and when the throw home from one of the best arms in the
California League reaches the catcher’s mitt a step ahead and the season is on
the line, it’s all about…Ka-BAM!
The downside is injury to Modesto catcher and good guy, John Suomi. Suomi was
on the receiving end of a playoff level hit, fed by the drive to score the
winning run in a series tied one game apiece in a best of five championship
series. One run meant a one game lead. One run meant one more game to go to win
it all instead of facing elimination. That one run, scored by Reggie Abercrombie, sent one ambulance to The Hangar, one catcher to the hospital, one
manager into a rage against the ump who made the call and one suspension for
that manager from the league president.
One team celebrated wildly, while the other huddled solemnly around their
fallen teammate. Once the severity of ‘The Hit’ became apparent by Suomi
remaining down, one baseball community gave an ovation of support to an opposing
player as he was transferred into an ambulance.
No one wishes John Suomi anything other than good health and a best case
scenario diagnosis, but none of the 1,870 at The Hangar on Saturday, September
18, will ever forget a game for the ages.
Game three of the California League Championship Series was a series in
itself. There can be no doubt the two best teams in the league were competing
against one another for a title, the way it’s supposed to be.
Game three took ten innings to settle and the JetHawks won 8-7 in a game that
would certainly motivate the A’s for revenge the next evening in game four.
Modesto A’s manager Von Hayes experimented with the line up by having six
lefties in a row bat at the top of the order with the remaining three batters
being right hand hitters. It paid off over five innings as the A’s scored all
eight of their runs within those frames. However, the A’s failed to score in
the sixth through tenth innings.
JetHawk starter Jesus Silva ran into trouble in the fourth when the inning
led off with an error charged to shortstop Danny Richar, followed by a double
and another error on Richar. This sequence allowed two runs to score in the
inning, one earned, and the A’s took the lead, 4-3.
The JetHawks battled back in the bottom the fourth. With two outs, Doc Brooks
and Jarred Ball walked. Dan Uggla cleaned up the bases with a three-run round
tripper to give Lancaster the lead, 6-4.
Silva started the fifth and allowed a base hit and a walk before being lifted
for Ryan Holsten. A base hit loaded the bags for A’s centerfielder Marcus McBeth who drove a single to centerfield, scoring two to tie the game. The A’s
added one more run before the inning was over to retake the lead, 7-6.
Lefty pitcher Justin Wells hurled three scoreless innings and was the only
JetHawk pitcher to retire Modesto batters 1-2-3 in the game. He did so in the
sixth and seventh innings while his team trailed by one and was the anchor of a
pitching staff that held the A’s offense to just one hit over the final five
innings of the ten inning battle.
"He did a good job. He is the left handed funk master. He came in and
threw strikes and challenged guys. He gave his team a chance to win," said
Modesto pitching coach Scott Emerson of Wells performance.
Wells took his success against Modesto’s line up in stride.
"They have a lot of lefties in their line up and I’m supposed to be a
good lefty specialist. I just go in there and do my job. My catcher, Phil Avlas,
deserves a lot of the credit too." said Wells.
JetHawk pitchers Mike Watson, who threw 1 1/3 innings, and Justin Wechsler,
who went one, each allowed one walk and no hits to combine with Wells to keep
their club within reach to pull out a victory.
In the seventh, Lancaster threatened after Zeringue hit a lead off double
into the right center gap. The next batter, Jay Garthwaite, smoked one, but
right to the Modesto centerfielder who was positioned perfectly. The next two
batters failed to bring the tying run home and the JetHawks continued to trail
Richar led off the eighth, getting on base by an error and was then
sacrificed to second by Reggie Abercrombie but ended up stranded on second like
his teammate Zeringue the previous inning.
With three outs to go before being faced with a 2-1 series deficit, the
JetHawks kicked it into gear. With one out in the bottom of the ninth, ‘Big
Game’ Zeringue once again hit a double into the rightfield gap that was
followed by a walk to Garthwaite and an infield hit by Luellwitz.
"I saw some good pitches to hit," said Zeringue after the game,
when asked about his two late inning doubles.
Catcher Phil Avlas launched a deep flyball and sacrificed in Zeringue to tie
"Jon has gotten better and better since we signed him in late June. We
can see why he was the organization’s number two pick. He’s got a big future
in front of him," said Wally Backman in response to Zeringue’s late game
The tenth inning brought Lancaster’s version of a one-two punch. The first
blow was a leadoff double by Abercrombie. With The Hangar shaking, the next
batter, Doc Brooks, delivered a base hit that brought Abercrombie charging hard
around third, and a la Pete Rose, he lowered his shoulder and bulldozed over A’s
catcher John Suomi. Suomi, who actually caught the ball a step ahead of
Abercrombie, turned to apply the tag, and then it was lights out! Ka-BOOM
Suomi did not drop the ball and Modesto manager Von Hayes B-lined out of the
dug out and engaged in a verbal shouting match with umpire Jeremy Sparling that
quickly escalated into physical contact. Catcher John Suomi lay motionless while
emergency services were called.
This one wasn’t truly over till it was over.
"That’s what’s special about this team. Other teams will lie down
but this one, it doesn’t matter if you’re up three, four, five runs against
us. In the ninth inning, you better be on top of your game because everybody in
this line up is capable of doing something to help you win," said second
baseman Dan Uggla.
Reggie Abercrombie, on his tenth inning lead off double and eventual game
winning score, summed up the drive inherent in JetHawk players.
"I just told myself if I get a base hit here, I got to score. Then Doc
(Brooks) came up behind me with a base hit and I told myself, ‘I got to score.’
Everybody expects me to score on a base hit. I had to do it for the team. Doc
came up with the big hit and we won," said Abercrombie.
Although the JetHawks pulled off a great win, their manager recognizes that
talent alone is not what won the game.
"The pitching struggled early in the game tonight. We fell behind and
battled back to get a couple of different leads then fell behind again. We were
able to pull it out in the tenth inning just by pure heart and determination by
the players," commented Backman.
Baseball is a game of numbers, not time. There is no clock or two minute
warning; therefore a team cannot be faced with too large a deficit with too
little time to play as in basketball or football. Instead, it is all about 27
outs and a team with focus can score just as well with only one out left to go
in the bottom of the ninth just as easily with no outs in the top of the second.
And the JetHawks know this too well.
"The guys know how to handle pressure. They’re winners and don’t
give up," added Jon Zeringue in the clubhouse after the game.
Asked for his reaction to the thriller of a ball game, Doc Brooks, who had
the game winning hit and RBI said, "That’s the game of Baseball. Anything
The JetHawks had one player strike out in each of the ten innings played
except for two; the third and tenth innings.
JetHawk pitchers held Modesto MVP Brian Stavisky to an 0 for 2 performance,
but walked him four times (3rd, 4th and 10th
innings), and once intentionally in the top of the eighth with two outs and one
"A little bit but I’m not frustrated. I was still on base four times,
I just have to score," said Stavisky when asked if he thinks Lancaster is
pitching around him.
On ‘The Hit’ by Reggie Abercrombie:
"It was absolutely clean." A’s manager, Von Hayes
"It sounded like it was pad-to-pad. I came down the line with Reggie and
it sounded like it was pad-to-pad and Reggie ain’t wearing any pads. It was a
heck of a hit."
JetHawk manager, Wally Backman
JetHawks 8, A’s 7
Saturday, September 18
Lancaster leads series 2-1
The Hangar, Lancaster
Hit Parade…Round and Round They Go.
All that was missing to accompany the merry-go-round offensive display put on
courtesy of the Modesto A’s was the carnival music. You remember that annoying
organ that plays that maddening pipe driven tune as round and round the people
go, while everybody else watches.
Sing along…won’t you?
"See the balls flying, this way and that way…see the runners running,
around and around."
The A’s led the league in batting for a reason and that reason was clear
Sunday night as Modesto’s offense looked as if it were participating in
pregame batting practice against JetHawk pitching. The A’s pounded out 21 hits
and won 12-8 to even the series at two games each.
Lancaster starter and lefty Pete Zamora faced a balanced Modesto line up of
R, R, L, L, R, L, R, L, R and lasted 2 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on nine
hits and took the loss.
Modesto manager Von Hayes was suspended by for the remainder of the series by
California League president Joe Gagliardi, who was in attendance at game four.
"Bump an ump, that’s it, you’re suspended. It’s automatic,"
announced Gagliardi in the press box.
Modesto sent batters to the plate 52 times in game four as injured catcher
John Suomi watched from the dug out, no doubt his crutches reminding his
teammates of the previous evening’s game ending hit, the loss and the prospect
of elimination staring them in the face. It appeared to be all the motivation
the A’s needed.
The pregame words of Modesto coach Scott Emerson gave a clue as to the
mindset of the players and the motivation behind it after game three’s tenth
"I think obviously the guy is out at the plate, the catcher blocked the
plate and caught the ball. I’ve never seen a guy take a catcher out at the top
and get called safe. The catcher hung on to the ball," said Emerson.
Lancaster failed to get anything going for the first three innings against
Modesto starter Jeff Mussig, who entered the evening with a 0-1 post season
record and 19.29 era.
In the fourth, shortstop Danny Richar reached base on an infield hit and
later scored on an RBI single by Zeringue making the score 6-1 Modesto.
Right fielder Jay Garthwaite went 2 for 4 with four RBI and scored two runs.
One of his hits was a two run home run scoring Jon Zeringue in the eighth.
Although always behind in the game, Lancaster never gave in, scoring four in
the sixth, two in the eighth and one in the ninth.
Modesto pitching coach Scott Emerson managed for suspended manager, Von
Lancaster had only one walk in game four. (Uggla)
Modesto’s first 12 hits were all singles. The thirteenth was a homerun.
After four innings, Modesto had fourteen hits.
A’s 12, JetHawks 8
Sunday, September 19
Series tied 2-2
The Hangar, Lancaster
Dreams of a Championship Ring are ‘Gone with the Wind’
Although no one knew it at the time, when all was said and done, game five
was won on a strange play in the top of the first inning. Had the sequence of
events been different, the final score may have been as well.
Adam Bass got the start for the JetHawks on an evening that brought 25-30 mph
sustained winds blowing in and across from left to right field. Under these
conditions with Modesto’s heavy lefty line up, it is the long ball that
threatens most, but this evening it was a flared infield bloop that had the
players on the field, fans in the seats and writers in the press box, scratching
With one out in the top of the first inning and runners on first and second,
Modesto right fielder Jason Perry fisted a low bloop towards Lancaster shortstop
Danny Richar. What appeared to be a routine play quickly changed as the swirling
field level winds made the ball behave like a knuckleball. Richar quickly
charged the ball while it was still in the air only to have it be pushed down
and drop in front of him. When Richar picked the ball up, Modesto had the runner
on second holding at the bag, the runner on first a few feet from the bag and
the batter standing on first.
Each runner had held because on an evening without fierce winds, the play
would have been a routine out. But not this evening. For a moment, all the
players on the field were frozen as they took in a sight not often seen in
baseball: one runner on first, one on second and one caught between the bags.
Instead of throwing to third for the easy out, then the third baseman
throwing to second for what would have been an inning ending double play, Richar
paused, then stepped on second, tagged the runner for good measure then threw to
first. One of Modesto’s runners was then ruled out by the second base umpire
for the second out.
Instead of Lancaster going into the dugout to bat in the bottom of the
inning, Bass needed to face another batter. Bass then gave up a two run double
that gave Modesto a 2-0 lead.
Bass completed four innings, walked three and fanned five with four going
down looking. He gave up all four Modesto runs.
Carlton Wells came on in the fifth to put Modesto down 1-2-3 for the third
time he faced them in the series. All Star pitcher Enrique Gonzalez pitched the
sixth and seventh, yielding one hit and a walk. Mike Watson pitched 2/3 of an
inning in the eighth and allowed one hit. Justin Wechsler then relieved with two
outs and struck out Modesto first baseman Mayo Santana to end the inning.
Wechsler also pitched the ninth, allowing one hit, one strike out and a walk.
Lancaster was held hitless through the first three innings then got on the
board in the fourth after Richar walked then scored on a double by Garthwaite.
Garthwaite then scored on a base hit by Sean Luellwitz. Luellwitz was held up at
third after Avlas doubled and the JetHawks stranded them both on base and after
four innings, trailed 4-2.
In the fifth through eighth innings Lancaster failed to get anything going
offensively, bringing three men to the plate each inning. A caught stealing in
the fifth and an inning ending 5-4-3 double play in the sixth meant 12 up - 12
down in an elimination game.
But the ninth inning seems to be JetHawk time because once again, the
JetHawks almost pulled out a miracle. Jon Zeringue, who is making a habit of
coming up big when the team needs him most, came up big once again.
With one out in the ninth, ‘Big Game’ Zeringue lined a one out double
over the head of the Modesto right fielder that hit the wall. After being
sacrificed to third by Garthwaite, Zeringue scored on a double by Luellwitz. The
clutch two out two bagger was the second hit and RBI of the game for Luellwitz.
With The Hangar rocking, two outs, a man on second and down by one, catcher
Phil Avlas battled Modesto pitcher Jeff Coleman. Going down 0-2 in the count,
Avlas shortened his swing to protect the plate and fouled off several pitches in
a row then popped out to left fielder and league MVP, Brian Stavisky. And that
was the ball game. Modesto won 4-3 in a thriller and earned the title, 2004
California League Champions.
Although second place is not an objective for any franchise, manager Wally
Backman kept things in perspective for ballplayers at the Single A level.
"Great things have happened this year. We’ve produced products that
are going to be impact players in the big leagues," said Backman after the
Backman’s statement applies to both teams and truth be told...neither team
really deserved to lose. It was one hell of an exciting series!
A’s 4, JetHawks 3
Monday, September 20
Modesto wins series 3-2