The Lake Elsinore Storm fell behind early, battled back to take the lead but lost it late in a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Inland Empire 66ers Wednesday, dropping the opening tilt of a three-game series to begin 2014 postseason play.
Inland Empire, who came in to the game with a league-best 20-9 record in August, struck for an early score in the top of the first. Storm starter Bryan Rodriguez retired the first two batters of the frame but lost Dennis Raben to a walk. That led to an RBI double off the bat of Angel Rosa, but Rodriguez was spared any further damage after Luis Domoromo eliminated Rosa on a play at the plate following a single in the next at-bat.
Despite the early deficit, Rodriguez kept the Eyes in the game. The San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic native went six innings, scattering six hits without allowing any further runs.
Lake Elsinore took the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Alberth Martinez started the inning with a single and advanced to second after Benji Gonzalez walked two batters later. That brought Jeremy Baltz to the plate, who proceeded to smack a single into center field to tie the game at one. Baltz swiped second with Dane Phillips at the plate, eliminating a possible double play, and Phillips hit a weak grounder to short that scored Gonzalez for the lead.
After a scoreless seventh, the Storm lost the game in the eighth. Tyron Guerrero (L, 0-1) struggled with his command, walking the lead-off hitter then throwing a wild pitch to put a man in scoring position. Raben, who was at the plate when the errant pitch was thrown, promptly doubled home the runner to tie the game. Guerrero struck out the next batter then walked Cal Towey, which prompted a call for Brandon Alger out of the bullpen. The southpaw retired the first batter he faced but walked the next man to load the bases. Exicardo Cayones followed with the game-winning hit, a single to left that just got by the outstretched glove of third baseman Gabriel Quintana.
The 66ers added another run in the ninth on an inside-the-park home run and the Storm failed to respond in the bottom of the inning to lose 4-2.
With the loss, Lake Elsinore (0-1) will have to win consecutive games in San Bernardino on Thursday and Friday to advance to the next round.
The series continues on Thursday as the 66ers (1-0) host the Storm at San Manuel Stadium. Elliot Morris gets the ball for Lake Elsinore against his former club while Clint Sharp will go for Inland Empire. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm.