Dodgers Prospect Jacob Amaya Keeps Rancho Cucamonga's Season Alive
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — Jacob Amaya spent most of the past year working to add power to his game.
It arrived at the perfect time.
Amaya hit two home runs, including a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and high Class A Rancho Cucamonga (Dodgers) kept its season alive with a 6-5 win over Lake Elsinore (Padres) in Game 3 of the California League semifinals.
Lake Elsinore leads the best-of-5 series, 2-1. Game 4 is Saturday at Rancho Cucamonga.
"(Amaya) is a tough guy, man,” Rancho Cucamonga manager Mark Kertenian said. "He’s mentally tough. He’s really been pouring his heart out into everything we’ve done. Whether we’ve been behind or ahead, that guy has one speed. I just think he was pretty locked in.”
Starling Heredia led off the ninth inning with a pinch-hit, game-tying home run to set the stage. Amaya followed and, after letting a first-pitch curveball bounce in the dirt, sent a high fastball deep beyond the left-center field wall for the winner.
"I knew they were going to break me off,” said Amaya, the Dodgers' No. 29 prospect. "The whole series, even before playoffs, they were breaking me off a lot, throwing me a lot of offspeed. So that first curveball, I wasn’t surprised by it. But I knew they were going to follow me with a fastball, and I saw it and put bat to ball.”
Amaya also homered to right-center to lead off the bottom of the first inning. It was the 21-year-old shortstop’s first career multi-home run game since the Dodgers drafted him in the 11th round in 2015.
"They were both very exciting, controlled swings,” Kertenian said. "He’s not coming out of his shoes. That’s going to be really healthy for his future, for him to get those types of swings off and know it’s not an all or nothing deal.”
Lake Elsinore reliever Mason Fox served up the back-to-back homers to Heredia and Amaya in the ninth to take the loss. Wills Montgomerie allowed two runs in 5.1 innings of relief to pick up the win for Rancho Cucamonga.
Amaya’s homer capped a wild game that featured four lead changes. After Rancho Cucamonga led most of the night, Lake Elsinore’s Eguy Rosario tied the score, 4-4, with a solo home run in the seventh inning and gave the Storm a 5-4 lead with a sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth.
With Lake Elsinore three outs away from clinching the series and moving on to the Cal League championship round, Heredia pinch-hit for catcher Garrett Hope to lead off the bottom of the ninth and annihilated a first-pitch fastball down the left-field line to tie it.
"Knowing the kind of guy (Heredia) is, I knew we were going to get a good at-bat,” Kertenian said. "He wasn’t messing around. He was watching the game intently. . . . He was ready. You could just tell.”
Amaya, who grew up only 25 miles west of Rancho Cucamonga and had his family in attendance, promptly stepped up and ended it two pitches later.
"I saw it all the way through,” he said. "It felt good off the bat. I knew it was gone. To do it in front of my family, that was something special.”