Crystal Lake South graduate Ian Gardeck and the San Jose Giants had to fight just to get into the post season. As the wild-card team, the Class-A Advanced affiliate of the San Francisco Giants won a three-game mini series. Then in the California League Divisional Series, they rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win a best of five series. In Game 3, Gardeck pitched two innings of one-hit baseball to pick up the win. In Game 4, he struck out two in a scoreless eighth inning to earn a hold. The series was capped with a 6-5, 11-inning victory over Visalia, which vaulted the Giants into the California League Championship Series against the Dodgers organization’s Rancho Cucamonga. The Giants fell to Rancho Cucamonga in three games, but during the playoffs Gardeck also notched his 100th strikeout .
We were the wild card team. We definitely weren’t the favorite in any of the rounds. We had a rough first half of the year and no one really counted us in. Then we got hot in the second half. We’ve kind of been living on edge in every series, coming from behind, playing extra innings and walking off.
It’s incredible. The atmosphere in the dugout with this team is unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of. The divisional series was huge. I think we were 4-19 against Visalia going into the playoffs. They had our number all year. To be able to come back down 2-0 was just absolutely unbelievable.
In Game 3, I came in and the game was tied. You’re just going out there trying to throw up as many zeroes as you can. Our pitching staff has been incredible. There’s good, healthy competition in the bullpen. We feel that anytime we get the game tied or with the lead, we’re going to win that game. We set a team record for most strikeouts in franchise history. We had a couple guys on the team get 100 Ks. It’s one of those things that's really cool. You don’t ever expect to get 100 Ks in a year, especially as a reliever.
Game 5 we were up. They tied it up and we sent it to extras. Every inning was really stressful. We got a big home run in the 11th and it was just absolutely incredible. Then to bring in the second-hardest throwing in the country and watch him close the game for us. He was throwing 100-plus miles per hour to seal the victory. It was absolutely incredible.
Everyone was so happy and so excited. But it quickly shifted to see where we were going to go next. The moment we found out we were going to be playing the Dodgers, everyone just went crazy.
You play the whole season for a championship. We preach winning at every level. To be able to win a championship, especially against the Dodgers, it’s huge for our organization. It’s huge for all the guys who have been here, grinding it out, riding on buses, seven-hour trips. This is what you play for. It’s what you dream of.