LAKE ELSINORE – The Storm closed out their home games for 2022 with a 13-2 thumping of the Fresno Grizzlies to take the first game of the best-of-three Cal League Championship series.
Lake Elsinore’s hitters pumped out 16 hits, 11 for extra bases.
“Our approach that Pat [O’Sullivan], our hitting coach teaches is to force the pitcher to come to you as much as possible,” said Storm manager Eric Junge.
“We don’t come off of the fastball, but we take it to right-center – for a right-handed hitter – when the breaking pitch is hanging, react to it and try to pull it for power.”
Down 1-0, Lake Elsinore tied the game on a double by Griffin Doersching bringing home Albert Fabian from first base. Then on a 2-0 count Jakob Marsee, the Padres’ sixth-round selection from Central Michigan University this year homered to right field.
“I’m not really doing anything different really here from what I did in college because it’s difficult to make big changes right now, but the coaches and the guys here have been giving me pointers to help me feel more comfortable,” said a smiling Marsee, who also had a double and walk and made some sparkling plays in center.
“I’m just running around out there trying to have fun and make some plays,” laughed Marsee. “I’ve had a great time out here.”
Jackson Merrill had four hits on the day with doubles to right, left, and center to collect four RBI. The 19-year-old infielder has been on fire in the post-season.
“I wouldn’t want to throw to him right now,” said Junge a former pitcher on how hot Merrill has been. “He allows the ball to feed into his game plan.”
Somewhat lost in the offensive explosion was a quality day by three Storm pitchers; left-hander Fernando Sanchez, righty Will Geerdes and lefty Hazahel Quijada, who closed out the game. Although they gave up 12 hits, they only allowed two runs, which Junge attributed to being aggressive in the zone.
“We only walked one guy today,” said Junge. “The games that we have struggled, strikes have been fleeting. It wasn’t so much getting ahead, but with each guy, there was a strike in the first two pitches, then they started going for the kill pitches to get the hitter out.”
The Storm’s other offensive stars were Marcos Castañon, who blasted his second home run of the post-season with a deep drive to left field, and catcher Juan Zabala, who connected for a pair of doubles, to go along with his typical high energy behind the plate.
“I love the energy, but sometimes he needs to dial it back a little,” laughed Junge. “He has come a long way and has grown into a leadership role. When you hit it sometimes makes your defense better and he has earned himself innings with the way he has performed for us.”
The Storm will travel to Fresno on Monday and will try to wrap up the California League championship on Tuesday.