With a roster including two of MLB Pipeline’s Top 50 Players, Lake Elsinore felt good about its chances for the upcoming season. With 6’8 righthander Michel Baez (Prospect Ranking #39) and southpaw Adrian Morejon (Prospect Ranking #46) set to be part of a pitching staff that would also include: Chris Paddack, Dauris Valdez, Reggie Lawson and Elliot Ashbeck, they felt they stood ready to compete going into their 25th California League season. While it hasn’t been what Storm brass has hoped for, evidenced by a 14 – 22 record (good for last place out of eight teams), there are signs that the pitching is going to be the backbone of a playoff run. They are fourth in team ERA, second in WHIP and first in hits allowed. So coming to town for a three-game, midweek series was the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. A team who is near the top of the league in most offensive categories.
Game One had the Nuts send out Andrew Sopko to the mound to try and outduel the Storm’s Reggie Lawson. Modesto would play ‘small ball’ in this one, with the help of three Lake Elsinore errors, pounding out twelve hits but only two going for extra bases (a double by Christian Santana and a homer by Omar Estevez). While Brad Zunica was produced two (a double and triple) of the four Storm hits. Sopko, Sven Schueller and Isaac Anderson combined to limit the Storm to a single run in route to a 6 – 1 victory. The loss dropped Reggie Lawson’s record to 2 – 1 on the season.
Game Two pitted two gunslingers in the form of Dustin May for the Nuts and Adrian Morejon for the Storm. May threw 5 scoreless innings while piling up nine strikeouts. Morejon fared better by throwing seven scoreless innings, striking out seven and picking up his first win of the season against three losses. Adrian showed why the Padres outbid several other teams for the service of the nineteen year old Cuban hurler. The Storm managed three ‘hits’ in the seventh inning to score the only run of the game. Kevin Melean singled to right, followed by the other ‘hits’ and by that, I mean hit by a pitch. The recipients were Deion Tansel and Eguy Rosario, who. With the bases loaded, Jason Richman uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Melean. Lake Bechar pitched a scoreless eighth for the hold and Trevor Megill tossed a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save of the season.
Game Three had the Storm hoping to win the series as they handed the ball to Ronald Bolanos. It didn’t quite work out in the Lake’s favor, as he lasted only 2 and 2/3 innings, giving up five runs in a disastrous third inning that saw a hit batter, a walk, a single, a double, a throwing error, and a grand slam courtesy of Quakes leadoff hitter, Jeren Kendall (his first homerun of the year). Nuts catcher Connor Wong connected on a solo shot in the fifth inning but it was just salt on the wound. The Storm managed to get on the scoreboard in the sixth on a two-run homer by first baseman Brad Zunica (his third of the campaign) that also plated Hudson Potts. Chris Mathewson and Stetson Allie combined to throw the three frames to secure the first win of the season for starter Tony Gonsolin, who went five innings scattering four hits and striking out six. Bolanos drops to 0 – 3 on the season.
Up next for the Storm (12 – 19) is a four-game set to face off against the Mariners’ affiliate, Modesto Nuts at Thurman Field (14 – 17) starting at 7 pm on Friday.