[Photo} Lake Elsinore’s Nerwilian Cedeno drives a ball to the outfield in game two of their California League South Division Championship game. Valley News/Andrez Imaging
LAKE ELSINORE – The Lake Elsinore Storm are once again, Cal. League South Division Champions. Earlier this week Lake Elsinore took the first game of their Single-A playoff series in San Bernardino, then returned home to finish the job. Thursday, Sept. 15, the Storm put up 10 runs to knock off the Inland Empire 66ers and put themselves two wins away from becoming California League champions.
It was no easy task according to the Storm front office. Through two and one-half innings of baseball, the game was deadlocked. Storm starter, Duncan Snider, did find himself in a jam when the bases got loaded in the top of the third, but got out of it with some defensive help and two strike outs to end the inning. In the bottom of that very same inning Griffin Doersching led off with a single, which then brought up Jackson Merrill, who would induce a four-pitch walk, bringing up home run leader, Marcos Castañon to the dish.
Castañon’s 23 home runs this season were not only the most on the Storm this season but the most ever hit by a Single-A player in the Padres Minor League system. Next up, homerun No. 24, a three-run blast that gave Lake Elsinore some breathing room. Snider would pitch into the fifth inning where he would allow two singles, throw a wild pitch, walk a batter, and strike out two before Storm reliever, Ben Miller, got them out of the inning.
Merrill, who would go 3-4 with 2 RBIs and a walk, broke an anxiety filled back-and-forth game open in the bottom of the seventh, which was backed up by Castañon, who would hit a two-out single to score Doersching and put Tyler Robertson on third. Nathan Martorella would then walk the bases loaded when Nerwilian Cedeño smashed a fly ball off the right field wall that would clear the bases, scoring three more runs to put the Storm ahead 9-2.
As any baseball fan knows, the game isn’t over until the final out and anything can happen. The 66ers would score six runs in the top of the eighth, giving way to the Storm’s lead at just one run. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs and Doersching once again on second base, Jackson Merrill would put the team on his back. With a 2-2 count, Merrill gave Lake Elsinore a much-needed insurance run when he singled up the middle after seeing eleven total pitches in his at-bat, fouling off six of them in that time.
Manuel Castro would come in for the save in the ninth inning, which saw him strikeout two batters before forcing Adrian Plascencia into a game-ending pop-out.
The Storm will now play one final game at The Diamond this season in their best of three-game series against the Fresno Grizzlies Sunday, Sept. 18, at 1:15 p.m. before going up to Fresno for the final two games of the season. Tickets are available now for just $10. More information can be found at www.stormbaseball.com. Article contributions were given by the Lake Elsinore Storm.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.