LAKE ELSINORE – After outscoring the Visalia Rawhide 29-7 in the two previous games, the Storm took a more conventional approach to winning their third straight Saturday night. The Storm used aggressive base running, timely hitting, and just enough pitching to defeat the Visalia Rawhide, 4-3 at the Diamond.
The Storm made the most of their five hits on the night. They got on the board in the second, thanks to some excellent base running. Outfielder Matthew Acosta drew a leadoff walk and promptly stole second base. On the next pitch, Acosta stole third and was able to score when Visalia catcher Shane Muntz threw the ball into left field. Two batters later, second baseman Marcos Castanon connected on a homer – a laser shot that went out to left field to give Lake Elsinore a 2-0 lead. It was the first homer of the year for Castanon, the Padres’ 12th-round pick last year out of UC Santa Barbara.
RHP Victor Lizarraga got the start on the mound and looked strong early. He used a lot of off-speed in the first inning, getting Visalia hitters to hit into weak contact with a low-80s change-up and a fastball that sat 90-93 mph.
Lizarraga was put to the test in the second, as Visalia loaded the bases with one out. The 18-year-old was able to wiggle out of the inning without any damage by striking out consecutive Visalia hitters to end the threat.
Lizarraga pitched well overall but had some issues with command that caused him to be inefficient. He needed 79 pitches to complete four innings. He allowed just one run on five hits, striking out four without walking a batter.
Lake Elsinore added a run in the third with more terrific base running. Max Ferguson drew a one-out walk and promptly stole second. He scored on a double high off of the wall in right field from first baseman Lucas Dunn to give the Storm a 3-0 lead.
Ferguson, who reached base three times, was an absolute menace on the base paths all night. He stole five more bases in the game to take the California League lead with nine bags on the young season.
The Storm added on in the fifth when Ferguson drew a walk, then promptly stole second and third base to put himself in scoring position. With the Visalia infield drawn in, Dunn, an eighth-rounder out of Louisville last summer, once again drove him in with a single up the middle. With the two RBI Saturday, Dunn is tied for the California League with 12.
With a 4-2 lead going to the eighth, Storm manager Eric Junge turned to RHP Matt Swilley. The San Diego County native had been out of affiliated ball for almost a decade before signing a deal with the Padres this offseason. The righty made things interesting. He hit leadoff batter Jean Walters, then allowed a two-out walk to put the tying run in scoring position. Swilley was able to pull it together to strike out Junior Franco to end the inning.
“Tonight was awesome,” said Matt Swilley after earning the hold Saturday night. I” haven’t been a part of that in so long. Having a nail-biter like that. It was the first one this season that wasn’t a 15-2 game either way, so it was fun.”
Visalia threatened in the ninth inning when Jordan Lawlar, the sixth-overall pick in last year’s draft, drew a leadoff walk. After a walk and a single, Visalia loaded the bases against Keegan Collett. After a mound visit, Collett struck out the next batter and then induced a game-ending double play to preserve the win for Lake Elsinore.
- Outfielder James Wood missed his sixth straight game with a wrist issue. As of now, there is no update on his status. Team officials were not made available for comment.
- The Storm stole nine bases on ten attempts Saturday night. In addition to Ferguson’s five, Acosta and Dunn chipped in with two each.
- Lake Elsinore pitchers hit six Visalia batters. Jordan Lawlar got plunked three times.