LAKE ELSINORE, Calif — All it took for the Storm to break out of an offensive slump was to play in front of a packed house at The Diamond.
Lake Elsinore jumped out to a lead with three runs in both the second and third innings, then held off a late rally in a 6-2 victory over the Lancaster JetHawks with over 6,000 in attendance.
In the second inning, the Storm did all of their damage with two outs. With a runner at second, shortstop Ruddy Giron lined a double just past the diving third baseman. Second baseman Eguy Rosario blooped a double that appeared to be a routine pop-up but the ball carried to the outfield and dropped in front of the left fielder. Designated hitter Nate Easley drove in the third run with a sharp single up the center of the diamond to plate the third run.
In the third, third baseman Hudson Potts singled and got to second when Jorge Ona drew a walk. Centerfielder Buddy Reed drove in a pair with a single that got past Lancaster first baseman Tyler Nevin, scoring two runs. The Storm added another run on a sacrifice fly from Giron.
Righty Reggie Lawson made his home debut, pitching a regular season game in Southern California for the first time since high school. The right-hander struck out Lancaster second baseman Forrest Wall — a top prospect in the Rockies system — with a 94 mph fastball to open the game.
Lawson ran into trouble after that, allowing a single that was wiped out when Storm catcher Luis Torrens threw out Lancaster DH Willie Abreu trying to steal second base. Third baseman Colton Welker hit a moonshot home-run to left that hit the scoreboard.
“I think that [Lawson] made the adjustments himself. He had a great outing in his first outing and in the first inning [Thursday night] his pitches were up in the zone and he was pitching behind in the count. But he made the adjustments and gave us five quality innings,” said Storm manager Edwin Rodriguez, shortly after the Lake Elsinore victory.
After two consecutive singles, Lawson bounced back with back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning. After that, Lawson was on cruise control. The righty from Adelanto allowed one hit apiece in the second and third, before retiring the side in the fourth. The (somewhat) local kid had a contingent watching him in the stands.
“It was good. It was really good. It is always good to come back home and pitch in front of your family and friends, [as well as] getting back on the Cali weather and competing and doing what I love,” said Lawson after his first win in a Storm uniform Thursday night.
The righty flashed a fastball that sat between 92-94 mph, touching 95 a couple of times. In the first inning, he almost exclusively threw the fastball, mixing in a curve and on two occasions, he threw a changeup.
“It was very comfortable. All three pitches were working for me today. The first inning was [rough] but other than that it was pretty good. I threw three [curveballs] in a row and my curve was really good tonight.”
Lawson struggled with free passes last year but has allowed just one in 10 innings in 2018. Lawson attributes his success to commanding his mid-90’s fastball.
“You just go out there and compete with your fastball. Make sure that they can beat you with that first before you start going soft away. Compete with your fastball until they prove they can hit it.”
Notes: Former Rule 5 draft pick Luis Torrens went 0-for-4 at the plate but hit a couple of balls very hard, lining out in his first at-bat and later flying out to the track in left center. He also threw out three baserunners, although two of the throws were bounced to second, with Eguy Rosario making a tremendous effort on scooping and tagging the runner.
RHP Gerardo Reyes, who was a Cal League All-Star last year, showed a 98 mph FB but also struggled with command. He hit a batter in the helmet with a slider, walked one, and allowed a double in the ninth, but stranded all three runners.
Left fielder Edward Olivares went 1-for-4 at the plate, legging out an infield single. He also made a great throw on a fly out to left, throwing a strike to nail a runner at third who attempted to take third.