LAKE ELSINORE – After the Storm opened the season with ten straight wins against the Visalia Rawhide, the team from Central California is starting to fight back.
Visalia made frequent, loud contact all night as they jumped out to a ten-run lead Friday night. The Storm had chances to rally but ultimately fell 12-8 in front of a loud crowd of 4,835 at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore.
Visalia got off to a quick start in the first inning. Rawhide center fielder Alvin Guzman ripped a fastball down the third base line that appeared foul. The umpire ruled that it was fair, and the ball trickled into the Visalia Rawhide bullpen. Storm left fielder Kai Murphy ran towards the ball with his hand up, signaling that the ball was stuck under the bench. The play was never stopped, and a run scored. Storm manager Pete Zamora came out to the field to question the play and was abruptly ejected by the home plate umpire.
“It was a ball down the line, and initially, I thought it was foul,” said Storm outfielder Kai Murphy. “It got stuck under the benches – [its a play] you work on. Sometimes it hits and shoots out really fast, and sometimes you have to go in and get it. So I went in to grab it and try to make a throw and try to keep the damage to a minimum.”
“I threw up my hands because when you have people sitting there, and their legs are there with bags and balls – there’s no reason why anyone should have to dig in there and go it. As an outfielder, you are taught to grab [for the ball] no matter what because if you don’t grab it and it turns into an inside-the-park home run, that’s your fault.”
Guzman came around to score on a wild pitch, giving the Rawhide the early 2-0 advantage in the first.
The Storm were down 3-0 in the third when they put together some terrific at-bats. Murphy started things off with a hard-hit single, and Graham Pauley ripped a hit to right field that Rawhide right fielder Kristian Robinson misplayed. Murphy scored on the play to put the Storm on the board. It was Murphy’s second game back after missing three weeks with an intercostal strain.
Visalia made consistent and hard contact against Storm starter Henry Baez. The righty never got into a rhythm and was hit hard in the fourth inning. He allowed a single, a triple, and another hard-hit single that plated a run. He surprisingly came out for the fifth inning, and Visalia tagged him for two more runs before the 20-year-old exited. He allowed a season-high eight earned runs on ten hits, including three triples. The outing raised his ERA from 3.03 to 4.72.
The Storm showed some life in the eighth inning, as they took advantage of some mistakes by Visalia. Devin Ortiz and Ethan Salas both drew walks to start the inning. After a pitch hit Albert Fabian, pinch-hitter Wyatt Hoffman walked to drive in a run. A Visalia error plated two more, but the Rawhide were able to limit the damage to four runs.
“We have this thing about scoring first – we don’t often score first,” said Murphy. “It takes us a minute to wake up – for good or for bad. We’ve learned how to come back and realized that we are never out of a game. We have an incredible lineup and incredible pitchers that keep us in games, and if we don’t hit in the first couple of innings, they will hold it down, and we will put some at-bats together like we did tonight.
Game Notes: Ethan Salas started at designated hitter and went hitless. He struck out in his first two at-bats but returned with excellent plate appearances to work a pair of walks. He flew out to left to end his night. Despite his young age, he is making an early impression on his teammates.
“[Having Salas] is exciting,” said Murphy. “We all want to be big leaguers. It’s going to be cool [to see] whether some of us are big leaguers and some of us aren’t, but that kid is a big leaguer. It’s cool to see him in his early stages. He can already compete here. You can see it. He’s going to do great at this level and probably every level. It’s been cool to be around a kid with that much savvy. I tell a story in there all the time, like, ‘You don’t even know what I was doing at 16.’ You are trying to do the right things, but you are a young kid and figuring things out. To see this kid at now 17, navigate the stuff he does – the media, the attention, he’s really a pro. Kudos to him and his family for raising him well.”
Adrian Morejon made a rehab outing and allowed three runs on three hits. Most of the damage was on a two-run shot off Gavin Conticello’s bat. Morejon threw 34 pitches. His fastball sat at 93, touching 94 a few times and 95 once. His command was spotty, but his knuckle-curve looked sharp and induced several swing-and-misses.
Graham Pauley had three hits on the evening, raising his average to .317. That mark is good for fifth in the circuit.