LANCASTER — After all the wind, after all the heat, after all the relentless sun and the grind of 121 games and thousands of unpaid frequent driver miles, it comes down to this for the Lancaster JetHawks:
Their playoff fate is in their hands.
Former Chicago Cubs farmhand Jimmy Herron celebrated his arrival in Lancaster with a three-run homer, Ryan Vilade went 4-for-4 and drove in three runs, and Lancaster feasted on five Lake Elsinore errors in a 9-4 victory Tuesday night before an announced crowd of 1,030 at The Hangar.
Will Gaddis (9-7) won his third straight start and became the third JetHawks pitcher to nine wins in 2019 as the JetHawks climbed into a tie with the Storm for the full-season wildcard berth in the California League South.
The JetHawks have now won four straight against the Storm, whom they play 10 times in the season’s remaining 19 games.
“It does feel like things are falling into place for us right now,” said Vilade, the club’s season leader in RBI with 65.
“We’ve had guys go up (to Class AA Hartford), and go down (with injuries), and our attitude is next man up.”
Successive errors on balls hit by No. 9 batter LeeMarcus Boyd and Matt Hearn allowed the JetHawks to tie the game in the third inning, 1-1.
Vilade singled up the middle and Herron, acquired by the Colorado Rockies at the trade deadline to short up additional international signing money, cracked his first Hangar homer in his second at-bat.
Vilade’s sacrifice fly plated Austin Bernard in a two-run third inning that otherwise consisted of a walk, hit batsman, an error and a sacrifice bunt Boyd legged into a base hit.
Boyd scorched a run-scoring single and Vilade singled home two more runs as the game became a 9-1 rout in the fifth.
When the dust settled, the Rockies’ second round draftee in 2017 out of Stillwater (Oklahoma) High School saw his batting average settle at .302.
“I wasn’t even thinking about that,” said Vilade, genuinely surprised at the stat. “All we’re thinking about in that clubhouse is winning and getting to the playoffs.
“Most of us got drafted by the Rockies in 2017, so we’ve come up together through the system. We were in (Class A) Asheville (North Carolina) last year, and now we’re learning how to play for each other and win here.
“We feel like we have something to prove.”
They have 10 more closing arguments vs. Lake Elsinore.