Cal League Baseball: First Half Playoff Hopes No More for Lake Elsinore

A Rough Home Stand Eliminates the Storm from First Half Playoff Bid

By Matt Rodriguez

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. – The Storm returned to The Diamond Monday two games up in the division with seven to play to close out the first half, but continuous heartbreak and late-game losses saw Lake Elsinore drop out of first place.

The eyes jumped out to an early 3-0 lead through four innings thanks to Brad Zunica’s ninth home run, a moon shot over the video board in right-center. The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes put up a four spot in the sixth to take a brief lead before the home team got those runs back in the bottom half of the inning.

The Dodgers affiliate would make an improbable comeback and score four runs in the ninth inning to take the first game, 8-7, serving as the prelude to a disappointing series for the Storm.

Tuesday night the Storm would again take an early lead, going up 2-0 through two innings, but Rancho Cucamonga would take a 3-2 lead in the seventh. Lake Elsinore would get one back in the bottom of the eighth before giving up the game-winning run on a throwing error by Storm shortstop Allen Cordoba to lose, 4-3, and fall even with the Quakes in the standings.

A similar script was written on Wednesday in another 4-3 Storm loss. After taking a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth with only three more outs to get, the wheels would come off the bus once again after back-to-base hits scored the game-winning run from first base with two outs.

The Storm were in position to tie or take the lead with the bases loaded and just one out in the bottom of the ninth, but a swinging bunt allowed the Quakes catcher to pick the ball up in fair territory with his foot on the plate for the force out and sling it to first for a game-ending double play.

The Storm would not be swept, however, with a quick 2-0 win on Thursday night. Thanks to a strong start from Major League rehabber and Storm alum Joey Lucchesi and five shutout innings of two-hit ball from Reggie Lawson, Quakes bats were finally silenced. Padres rehabber Austin Hedges factored into both Storm runs.

A crucial three-game series against the Lancaster JetHawks to close out the first half did not start ideal for the eyes. Despite an outstanding outing for southpaw Adrian Morejon, who tallied a career-high 12 strikeouts, the offense went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position and lost 3-1.

Despite a sellout crowd for Star Wars Night, the home team got off to a rough start, quickly falling behind 6-0 before rallying for four unanswered runs to make it a game. Lancaster answered shortly after with nine unanswered runs and coasted to a 15-5 win in what was a four-hour game, eliminating the Storm from playoff contention as the crowd dwindled from 6,000+ to a couple hundred at the end.

The good guys ended the first half on a high note, capping the seven-game homestand with a walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth. A 1-1 battle through eight and a half innings, Zunica led off the bottom of the ninth with a double and Jorge Ona almost immediately drove him home with a bloop line drive just out of reach of the first baseman.

The Storm dropped five of seven on the homestand, finishing the first half in second place in the division. They return to The Diamond June 25 for a four-game set against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.

Press Release Provided By the Lake Elsinore Storm