By Matthew Rodriguez
LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. – Storm fans were treated to some great baseball over the course of the 2017 season. The eyes won 39 of their 70 games at The Diamond. Eight of those wins came in walk-off fashion, with three of those eight ending on home runs. The arms of the Storm provided the fans with six home shutout victories. As the gates of The Diamond close to Storm baseball until April 2018, we look back at the five best home games of the 2017 season and highlight the best hitting and pitching performance Storm fans witnessed from the friendly confines.
APRIL 8, 2017 – WALK-OFF WALK CAPS FOUR-RUN NINTH INNING
Just three games into the fresh season, Storm fans were treated to thrilling dramatics when the game seemed out of reach heading into the bottom of the ninth with the home team down 9-6 and not having plated a run since the fifth inning.
Three singles and a walk chased the first Quakes pitcher of the ninth inning out of the game after recording just one out.
After the new pitcher quickly recorded a strikeout to preserve the Quakes one-run lead with two outs, the wheels came off. Chris Baker walked to tie the game at 9-9 before Josh Naylor practically stood in the batter’s box with the bat on his shoulder to draw a walk and send the Storm home victorious.
It wasn’t a clean game by any means, as the nearly four-hour game saw four fielding errors resulting in six unearned runs, and a dozen walks between the two teams. Good, bad, or ugly, a win is a win and what a comeback it was.
APRIL 22, 2017 – SOMETHING ABOUT SATURDAYS
As appropriate as it may ever be in a sports environment, Ruddy Giron stepped up to the plate in a 7-7 game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. As the “Rudy!” chant from the famous football movie began to play throughout the stadium the fans almost immediately got on board. With two strikes, Giron connected for a walk-off home run over the left field wall; his first home run of the season.
As Giron was mobbed by teammates when he crossed home plate the fans continued to chant his name for several minutes. It was, literally, like something out of a movie.
MAY 10, 2017 – EXTRA-INNING POWER
After a 4-4 tie sent the game against the Stockton Ports into extra innings the Ports broke into the run column in the 11th, leaving them just three outs away from a win.
A new pitcher took the bump for Stockton in the 11th and Michael Gettys drew a leadoff walk to pump some life back into the mid-week crowd. A wild pitch gave Gettys second base, putting the tying run in scoring position with nobody out, but a shallow fly ball resulted in an out with Gettys still on second.
Austin Allen then drew a walk, putting the winning run on base, but also putting the Ports in good position for a double play possibility.
Then, one of the least probable things that could happen did. Shortstop Javier Guerra, not recognized for his power, took a 2-2 pitch and sent it over the right-center field wall, just to the left of the 36-foot wall in right field. Had the ball been 10 feet to the left, it would’ve more than likely resulted in a double with Allen stopping at third base.
Guerra’s extra-inning walk-off home run was just his second home run of the season, putting him right there with Giron as one of the most exciting Storm at-bats of the season.
JUNE 28, 2017 – NIX MUST BE A MORNING PERSON
Despite eight walk-off wins for the Storm in 2017, it’s nearly impossible not to include Jacob Nix and his dominating performance against the Quakes as one of the five best home games of the season. It was a performance nobody would’ve expected, not even Nix himself who said he got to the ballpark less than an hour before his scheduled 11am start.
It was a hot, muggy Wednesday morning where a majority of the fans in attendance were children who were there for the Summer Camp Day.
The Storm got on the board in the first inning to give Nix a 1-0 lead and both clubs would trade zeros for nearly six straight innings. It was the definition of a pitcher’s duel and while the Quakes pitcher was surely throwing a special game himself, he was overshadowed by what was happening when the Storm were in the field.
A caught stealing and an outfield assist kept Nix at the minimum batters faced until a wild pitch on the strikeout that would’ve ended the game allowed the runner to reach safely before the next out was recorded.
It took Nix just 108 pitches to throw his complete game shutout and notch a career-high 11 strikeouts. Of those 108 pitches, 75 of them went for strikes. Nine of the 27 outs were groundouts, while four were flyouts. The game lasted just under two hours, sending the campers home early and with a win. It was the first complete game shutout by a California League player to that point in the season.
AUGUST 16, 2017 – THE COMEBACK OF THE YEAR
Trailing by two runs in the ninth, the inning started off with a quick flyout to center field. With the tying run in the on-deck circle and the bases empty with one out, the chances of a comeback win looked slim.
Then, Fernando Perez would single to left field and Carlos Belen would draw a walk, putting the tying run on base and the winning run in the batter’s box.
Left-handed hitter Edwin Moreno took strike one before connecting for a walk-off three-run home run to cap off an incredible comeback, hitting the ball to almost the exact same spot Javier Guerra connected for his three-run walk-off three months earlier. It would be Moreno’s 11th home run of the season and surely his most memorable.
BEST HITTING PERFORMANCE
River Stevens spent time in Lake Elsinore a year ago and after spending most of the 2017 season in San Antonio he would make his return to The Diamond August 5. The fan favorite immediately made his presence felt again when he went 5-for-6 in his first game back in a Storm uniform. Four of his base hits were singles, while he collected a triple, an RBI and scored a run in an extra-inning loss.
BEST PITCHING PERFORMANCE
It’s pretty much impossible to top what Jacob Nix did on June 28 unless someone were to throw a no-hitter or perfect game. Nix was efficient, precise, powerful and just dominant in his complete game shutout. His 108-pitch complete game shutout was the first in the Cal League in 2017. His 11 strikeouts were a personal best at the professional level and he faced just 28 batters all afternoon. He allowed just two base hits and did not surrender a walk or hit a batter, giving him an incredibly high game score of 101. Nix wouldn’t be in Lake Elsinore much longer before getting the promotion to Double-A San Antonio.