Storm blow through to take Cal League crown
The winds started howling during the final week of the regular season, and only after claiming their first title in 11 years, did the Storm finally die down. Buoyed by a strong pitching performance from Victor Lizarraga and a knack for the clutch hit, Single-A Lake Elsinore held off Fresno,
The winds started howling during the final week of the regular season, and only after claiming their first title in 11 years, did the Storm finally die down.
Buoyed by a strong pitching performance from Victor Lizarraga and a knack for the clutch hit, Single-A Lake Elsinore held off Fresno, 3-2, on Tuesday night to sweep to its first California League championship since 2011.
The Storm ran the table in the playoffs, going 4-0 after winning five consecutive games to close out the regular season.
Coming off an impressive performance in the opening game, top Padres prospect Jackson Merrill added two more hits and Jakob Marsee drove in a pair of runs, including a two-out RBI single in the seventh that proved to be the winning tally.
But it didn't come easy.
Trailing by a run in the ninth, Fresno made sure it emptied its tank before ceding the title to Lake Elsinore. No. 9 Rockies prospect Jordan Beck singled to open the frame. A walk to Rockies' 17th-ranked Juan Guerrero one out later put the winning run aboard, but a second fielder's choice and a flyout to center ended the threat and the season.
After rolling over the Grizzlies, 13-2, in the series opener, the Storm struck quickly in Game 2. Tyler Robertson's sacrifice fly broke the ice in the second and Marsee, San Diego's sixth-round earlier this summer, doubled the lead with an RBI hit later in the inning.
*Ahem*— Lake Elsinore Storm Baseball (@Storm_Baseball) September 21, 2022
YOUR LAKE ELSINORE STORM ARE CAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONS!! pic.twitter.com/Leeor9DP2d
Marsee's second RBI single, a two-out knock in the seventh, appeared to be the icing on the cake for Lake Elsinore. That was because Lizarraga cruised after wriggling out of trouble in the second. Fresno loaded the bases with one out in the frame, but the No. 7 Padres prospect induced a double play to escape unscathed.
Lizarraga issued one walk over the next four frames, but a leadoff single in the seventh and a two-run homer from No. 7 Rockies prospect Sterlin Thompson sliced the lead to one.
The San Diego native departed after surrendering two runs, four hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 6 1/3 frames.
Despite finding trouble in the ninth, Duncan Snider nailed down the championship for the Storm with 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief.
The Storm, whose 77-55 record during the regular season was second only to the Grizzlies' 83-49 mark, outscored their opponents 35-14 in completing their postseason sweep. The club reached the playoffs after winning the South Division first-half title.
Lake Elsinore disposed of Inland Empire in two games before delivering the same fate to Fresno, which it beat seven times in eight meetings this year.
Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB.