Robert Hassell hasn’t missed a beat in a Storm uniform. (Photo: Robert Escalante, Lake Elsinore Storm)

LAKE ELSINORE  – The first two games of Lake Elsinore’s series with Inland Empire were the wild, high-scoring ballgames you’d expect from the circuit formerly known as the California League. Thursday night was not one of those games.

Both teams received excellent outings from their starters but Inland Empire capitalized on five walks in the sixth inning and pulled away to secure a 3-0 victory at The Diamond in front of an announced crowd of 1,825.

The story of the night for the Storm was the excellent outing from 20-year-old righty Dwayne Matos who came into the 2021 season as a bit of an unknown. Matos set the tone early, showing excellent command of a fastball that he was consistently able to throw for a strike. He punched out two in the first, including shortstop Jeremiah Jackson, one of the top prospects in the Angels’ system.

The Storm couldn’t get anything going in the bottom half of the inning as they were retired in order. Robert Hassell III led off and worked a full count but was ultimately called out on strikes on a high fastball that was a borderline pitch. Hassell III also struck out looking in his second at-bat, again on a pitch that was a borderline strike.

Matos breezed through the next four innings, generating weak contact on the ground. Inland Empire hitters grounded out seven times and mustered just one routine play to left in the air. Matos faced some hard contact in the fifth but first baseman Brandon Valenzuela made a tremendous leaping catch of a liner ticketed to right field.

Matos was perfect through five innings, striking out four batters. Matos has not walked a batter in nine innings of work so far in 2021.

LHP Ramon Perez relieved Matos and allowed the game to slip away. After recording an out, Perez walked the next two batters. Perez got a grounder but Storm third baseman Jarryd Dale opted not to throw to second to start the double play and went for the sure out at first. After another walk, Perez forced a grounder to second but Euribiel Angeles’ throw was errant and two runs came in to score to give Inland Empire a lead they would not relinquish.

Note: Due to COVID-19 protocols and current team policy, there was no post-game media access.

Notes and observations:

  • The Storm defense has made 12 errors in the first three games of the series. Angeles made another key error late in the game when he misplayed a grounder that he couldn’t field on a short-hop.
  • RHP Jason Reynolds threw two innings of relief and pitched around a loud double in the ninth. He threw a few good curveballs that badly fooled opposing batters. He notched three strikeouts, walking one. Reynolds was a 32nd round pick in 2019 out of Lehigh University.
  • LHP Ramon Perez recorded two outs and walked four without allowing a hit. Despite the command issues, Perez nearly escaped the jam. He has a 9.82 ERA in a limited sample.
  • Brandon Valenzuela started at first base and showed very good footwork around the bag and made a couple of nice plays on throws in the dirt. He is a very good defensive catcher but he looked very natural at first.
  • Dwayne Matos needed just 56 pitches to get through five innings. He threw 39 strikes. Matos seemed to throw mostly fastballs and change-ups but did mix in a breaking ball in the final two innings. There wasn’t a stadium gun available.

Posted by Kevin Charity

Kevin Charity has written for MadFriars since 2015 and has had work featured on Fox Sports San Diego. He is a lifelong San Diego native and is looking forward to seeing the current wave of prospects thrive in San Diego.

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