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JetHawks Stick With Winning Formula

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

After the Lancaster JetHawks’ blowout victory Friday night, first baseman James Clifford noted how unusual it was for them to mix good hitting and good pitching on the same night.

“Except when Rob Luce pitches,” he said.

Clifford turned out to be prophetic when the JetHawks and Luce routed the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, 17-4, on Saturday night at the Hangar.

“We know we’re going to win [when Luce pitches],” said catcher Dusty Wathan. “We know we’re going to be in the game with him whether we score one run or 14.”

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Unfortunately for the JetHawks (32-31), they couldn’t gain in the California League Valley Division race because Stockton and High Desert, tied for the lead, played each other. Stockton won, remaining three games ahead of Lancaster with seven left in the first half.

The difficult hole the JetHawks are in didn’t seem to faze the team or the season-high crowd of 5,627, which came to see the postgame fireworks.

The JetHawks gave the fans fireworks all night, scoring five runs in the first inning and taking all suspense out of the game with a seven-run fourth for a 12-1 lead.

Third baseman Carlos Villalobos had four hits and is batting .359. Villalobos, 12 for 19 in the past five games, has hit in 43 of 55 games.

Outfielder Joe Mathis went three for four with his seventh home run. Mathis is eight for his last 12.

Second baseman Chris Dean had three hits and outfielder Yuni Kim hit a three-run homer.

Luce (9-1), the league’s winningest pitcher, gave up one run and 10 hits, including eight singles, in six innings. He threw strikes on 46 of 67 pitches and didn’t walk a batter. He induced 11 groundouts, including two double plays.

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“He doesn’t change his game plan,” said pitching coach Jim Slaton. “When he gives up hits he gets tougher and somehow gets the ground ball he needs or a big strikeout.”

Gary Matthews Jr. and Mike Mitchell hit home runs for the Quakes in the seventh.

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