Lake Elsinore — The Storm didn’t get their first baserunner until a hit batter in the fifth and managed just one hit as they fell to Rancho Cucamonga 4-0 at home Friday night.
Marcos Castañon, who broke up the perfect game when he got plunked, came back with two outs in the seventh and launched a ball that hit off the very top of the 36-foot wall in right-center. The 23-year-old infielder from up the road in San Bernardino settled for a double, but was left stranded.
The only other Lake Elsinore player to reach base safely all night was Max Ferguson, who drew walks in his final two plate appearances. As he has all year, the speedster tried to turn one base into two after his first walk. With a lefty on the mound, he broke for second, but left early and was easily picked off on the play.
“We really couldn’t get a whole lot going,” said manager Eric Junge.”Their defensive positioning was really good and the pitching was on-point. You combine that with we’re a little bit flat and these things happen.”
With his offense held in check, starter Garrett Hawkins struggled for the first time all year. The big righty came into the night with a 1.96 ERA and a stellar 26:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio but fought his command most of the night and issued three walks in just 3.2 innings of work.
While he was able to navigate runners in both the first two innings, Quakes DH Alex DeJesus jumped a fastball for a two-run homer in the third.
Working with a fastball that was several ticks down from where it was in his first few outings, Hawkins still managed to record six strikeouts, including the final two batters he faced. By that point, he was up to 79 pitches.
“Hawkins needs to develop some of his offspeed pitches, so he needed to throw them and I think they kind of took him out of his game a little bit,” said Junge. He can be a really fastball-dominant kind of guy and so, I think it kind of threw him off-kilter slightly. He was competitive, but his pitch count just kind of caught up to him at that point.”
Hawkins has shown both a slider and curve in the past, but the two pitches bled together Friday, with both landing between 78-83 most of the night. He used his change-up less often, but it also sat in the same velocity range and didn’t show much horizontal movement.
Hawkins gave way to Jose Castillo with runners on first and second. The lefty got a one-pitch grounder to end the frame, giving himself the opportunity to work across multiple innings for the first time all year. When he came back in the fifth, Castillo worked with a fastball that ran up to 96, while focusing heavily on his slider. He was charged with one unearned run.
Castillo has now allowed four hits over 5.1 innings on the year, striking out seven. Having shown he’s healthy, he’ll likely head to the upper minors for a more appropriate level of competition shortly.
Notes: James Wood, who missed 10 games with a wrist injury earlier in the year, had it flare up on him again and was placed on the IL. The talented outfielder, who sports a 1.022 OPS in 65 plate appearances, has headed to Peoria, after being examined in San Diego, to join Jackson Merrill under the care of the organization’s rehab group. … Albert Fabian, 20, joined the Storm and made his full-season debut as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. The left-handed hitter signed in 2018 and was limited to just seven games in Arizona before an injury ended his campaign in July last summer. … The Storm pitching staff leads the Cal League with a 3.72 ERA.