The JetHawk offensive machine was just getting warmed up, just starting to build the electricity in the crowd of 5,501 at the Hangar.
Then Juan Melo pulled the plug.
Melo, the Rancho Cucamonga shortstop, made a leaping grab of a line drive in the sixth inning Thursday night, turning what would have been a two-run single into an inning-ending double play and sending the JetHawks on their way to a 4-1 loss.
“That was the key to the whole ballgame,” JetHawk Manager Dave Brundage said. “That broke our backs.”
The JetHawks fell back into second place in the California League’s Southern Division, one game behind the Quakes with three to play in the first half.
The JetHawks (35-32) begin a series tonight at Lake Elsinore, while the Quakes begin a set at San Bernardino. Good news for the JetHawks is that Rancho Cucamonga is 1-5 against the Stampede, 0-3 in San Bernardino. Bad news is the JetHawks are 2-5 against the Storm, 2-2 in Lake Elsinore.
The JetHawks trailed Thursday, 3-0, and did nothing with Rancho Cucamonga’s Ryan Van De Weg until the sixth. Marcus Sturdivant led off with a single and Shane Monahan singled Sturdivant to third, taking second on the throw.
Jose Cruz Jr. struck out but Jesus Marquez drilled a line drive that seemed headed for left field until Melo did his Michael Jordan impression, hanging in mid-air to grab the ball.
Melo, who made a diving stop of a line drive starting another double play in the third, flipped to second to double off Monahan.
“I though it was going to be a hit,” said JetHawk catcher Scot Sealy. “I think everyone in the park thought it was going to be a hit. I was thinking about the ball getting into the gap and getting us back in the game.”
Van De Weg struck out eight and gave up five singles in eight innings.
“I tip my cap to him,” Brundage said. “That was a clutch performance.”
Jason Cook doubled home a run against Todd Erdos in the ninth.
Rancho Cucamonga scored twice in the fourth when shortstop Mike Lanza threw away a potential double-play ball. Three singles by the Quakes made it 3-0 in the fifth and two JetHawk errors and a misplay that fell for a hit made it 4-0 in the seventh.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Rancho Cucamonga 4, JetHawks 1
Rancho Cucamonga 000 210 100 -- 4 11 0
JetHawks 000 000 001 -- 1 7 3
Van De Weg, Erdos (9) and Davis; Moore, Pearce (8), Daniels (8) and Sealy.
W--Van De Weg (5-3).L--Moore (1-1).
2B: RC--Davis; J--Cook.
Records: Rancho Cucamonga 36-31; JetHawks 35-32.