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JetHawks Trying to Join Race

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

It’s not an enviable position, three games back with eight to go, but that is exactly where the Lancaster JetHawks find themselves after Friday night’s 11-4 victory over the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes before 4,561 at the Hangar.

“That’s a lot of games to make up,” JetHawk first baseman James Clifford said, shaking his head. “But, heck, if we play the way we played tonight, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”

The JetHawks (31-31) are three games behind Stockton and High Desert, who are tied for the California League’s Valley Division lead as the first-half race winds down.

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“This was a real important win,” said center fielder Joe Mathis. “Last night would have been an important win, too, but at least we came back and won one.”

Mathis’ three hits were instrumental in the JetHawks recovering from Thursday night’s one-run loss to Stockton, in which several critical--and debatable--calls went against the JetHawks.

Mathis, who may be emerging from a three-week slump, sparked a three-run second inning with his fifth triple, and first since May 4. He drove in the first of two runs in the fifth with a single.

He led off the seventh with his sixth homer and needed a double to hit for the cycle. He was on deck when Shawn Buhner’s grounder ended the eighth.

Third baseman Carlos Villalobos also missed the cycle when he singled in the first, drove in a run with a double in the second and hit his sixth homer in the sixth.

Villalobos’ homer came right after a home run by Chris Dean, who will join Villalobos on the California League All-Star team.

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Javier Gutierrez (1-0), just promoted from Wisconsin, pitched five innings, struck out five and was hurt on only two pitches--a two-run homer by Ben Davis and a solo shot by Winkleman Gonzalez.

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