High Desert locks up second-half title

High Desert locks up second-half title

It's been there all season long, the two-column chart the Mavericks shade in following each game, with each column designated for a win or a loss.

And while Jim Horner's squad is still two wins shy of reaching its second-half goal of 40, coloring in Wednesday's square carried special significance.

High Desert clinched the California League Southern Division second-half title Wednesday night with a 7-0 triumph over the Lancaster JetHawks. The win, coupled with Lake Elsinore's loss to Modesto, solidified the season-long dominance of the Mavericks (38-27).

It's only the second time in franchise history -- and the first since 1993 -- the team has claimed titles in both halves of the season.

"It's a good group of guys," said Horner, the Mavs' second-year manager. "They like each other and they help each other out. It honestly makes my job easy.

"When you have players that take care of things, I get to write up the lineup, but that's about it. They don't whine, they don't complain. They come here, they do early work and they work hard because they want to get better."

Horner is in his fifth season in the Mariners organization and fourth as skipper. He managed the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers from 2006-07. Prior to becoming a coach, Horner spent nine years in the system as a catcher.

The Mavericks are led offensively by Cal League MVP Alex Liddi, who is batting .348 with a league-leading 101 RBIs, and James McOwen, whose 45-game hitting streak shattered the league mark earlier this season.

Steven Hensley struck out seven and allowed three hits over six innings to pick up his ninth win in Wednesday's clincher.

Since the first-half title secured the Mavericks' first playoff berth since 2006, Horner's squad was decidedly more tempered on Wednesday.

"It was a little bit subdued this time," Horner admitted. "There's some unfinished business."

And unfilled squares.

Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.