LAKE ELSINORE – The Diamond in Lake Elsinore has played host to league triple headers for the Southwestern and Sunbelt league baseball teams for the past 6 years. Usually this triple header takes place just before playoffs as our local teams are wrapping up their league seasons, but this year the Storm front office wanted to try something different for the Southwestern league and instead hosted the league opener this year.
“We love being a part of this event. The Diamond Showcase allows high school teams to play in a professional stadium where most of these players hope to end up one day and for us being able to provide just a taste of what that will feel like at the minor league level; it makes it all worthwhile,” says Director of Storm Events, Josh Ferguson.
Over 2,000 fans attended the first day of the Valley News Diamond Showcase this past Friday. Vista Murrieta even filled two rooters’ buses with students to attend the opening match-up between two of the top-ranked teams in the CIF Southern Section. The Southwestern League triple-header consisted of league matchups: Vista Murrieta vs. Temecula Valley, Murrieta Valley vs. Great Oak and Chaparral vs. Murrieta Mesa.
The #1-ranked Golden Bears jumped out to an early 5-0 lead as they ultimately defeated #10-ranked Vista Murrieta 6-1 in their Southwestern League opener. Senior Burke Mitchell dominated on the mound and was just one strike away from a no-hitter with two outs and the count full in the final inning when Broncos’ second baseman Ruben Ornelas singled sharply to right to break up the no-hitter.
“It was tough to give up, but I wasn’t really thinking about it during the game,” Mitchell said. “I probably could have gotten out of it, but it is what it is.”
Mitchell pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowed an unearned run, walked three, and struck out six Broncos to improve his varsity career record to 12-0. After Mitchell hit the next batter, senior pitcher Jared Morton was called on to get the final out for Temecula Valley. Mitchell left with a well deserved standing ovation.
“Burke did a tremendous job mixing up his pitches and hitting his spots,” said Golden Bears’ coach Tony Nobiensky said. “I am glad we got the win, but I was really hoping (Mitchell) would have landed that achievement. On this stage, against that team during his senior year, to throw a no-hitter would’ve been priceless.”
“He kept changing his speeds, moving the ball in-and-out, up and down, all over,” Vista Murrieta senior J.T. McLellan said. “Just when we thought we had him figured out, he would surprise us with new locations all over again.”
Temecula’s Nick Juhl was 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored while Mitch Kemp went 3-for-4 with a double and shortstop Kyle Plantier’s monster home run shot into the trees down the left field line helped lead a ten-hit attack.
The Broncos scored their only run in the fifth when Mitchell hit senior outfielder Benny Blackwell with an inside fastball. Blackwell then moved to second on a walk, reached third on a flubbed pickoff throw to first base and then stole home on another pickoff throw to first. Sophomore Jack Moberg gave up five runs and was the losing pitcher.
Temecula Valley did lose to Great Oak on Saturday 3/22 at the Pirate-Falcon Championship bringing an end to their undefeated season; TVHS will face Chaparral in a league matchup on Tuesday 3/25 at home. The Broncos’ next league game will be on the road against the Wolfpack on Tuesday 3/25 as well.
In the second game, the Nighthawks battled the Wolfpack to a 1-1 tie through six innings in their Southwestern League opener. Great Oak’s senior catcher Chandler Wagoner went 2-for-4 and singled home the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh while Wolfpack second baseman Kevin Vasquez followed with a two-run single which put the game out of reach.
First baseman Hunter Arriaga was 2-for-4 with a double and Brett Dillion also singled and had the sacrifice fly in the fourth to bring in the Wolfpack’s first run.
Great Oak starter Brad Wegman allowed just four hits and struck out six in a complete-game effort, and also went 2-for-4 with a double at the plate.
“Brad is our guy and we know good things should happen while he is out there,” said Eric Morton, Great Oak head coach. “He did his thing, threw strikes, our defense stepped up and our offense got some hits. This is one of those team wins and we have to be proud of all our guys in games like this.”
Murrieta Valley senior James Schmidt singled in the lone Nighthawk run in the fourth while Kevin Padlo tripled in his first at bat for MVHS and Nicko Cottone allowed only one run in six innings for the Nighthawks (3-3) recording a no decision.
Both teams have their sights set on Vista Murrieta as the Wolfpack will face the Broncos at home on 3/25 while Murrieta Valley travels to Bronco Stadium on 3/27.
Fans of the Murrieta Mesa Rams exited the stadium thrilled after the final game of the triple header unfolded late Friday night. The Rams scored both the game-tying and go-ahead runs on steals of home with two outs in the top of the seventh for a stunning come-from-behind win.
Brad Prebay scored the tying run on the back end of a double steal and Austin Salcedo scored the go-ahead run in the same fashion a few pitches later.
Peyton Uhl went 2-for-3 with an RBI double and Christian Stiegele allowed only one run in 4-1/3 innings of relief to pick up the win for Mesa (4-2, 1-0).
“These kids have been jacked up for this game. Storm Stadium is a great local field where these guys get to see these minor leaguers play and getting the chance to step up and play some big time baseball, and win, especially against a very driven Chaparral team, well this is what it’s all about,” exclaimed Murrieta Mesa head Coach Frank Castillon.
Marc Sauceda allowed four hits and two runs in five innings pitched and went 2-for-3 with a two-run double, and Jackson Schlekeway went 3-for-3 with a double and scored a run for Chaparral (5-3, 0-1).
Chaparral will travel to face Temecula Valley at home on 3/25 while Murrieta Mesa welcomes the Golden Bears to their house on 3/27.
Thanks to all of the sponsors who made this event possible: Lake Chevrolet, Tri-Lakes Sportswear, Nutrishop of Temecula, Nutz About Nuts, Amatulli Auto Parts, Juice it up, Swivel Vision, Sunpro Solar, Paradise Chevrolet Cadillac, Hill Alcohol & Drug Treatment Center, Rancho Physical Therapy, Get Air, and Executive Event Services. Sponsorships and vendor spaces are available for the next event on May 2nd. Contact Paul at Valley News for details (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Diamond is celebrating its 21st anniversary this season and is considered one of the finest venues in all of minor league baseball. It seats over 8000 and was designed with Boston’s “green monster wall” located in right field rather than left.
The Storm has sent 120 players to the major leagues and has won three California League Championships since being in Elsinore. Upcoming events at the Diamond include the Storm Fan fest on April 2nd, Opening Day on April 10th and the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes on April 5th. On May 4th there will be the Eibach Springs Honda Meet and don’t miss the Memorial Day 5k/10K run on May 26. Further Information can be found online at www.stormevents.com.