LAKE ELSINORE — On another Fireworks Night at The Diamond, the Storm offense delivered plenty of fireworks on offense. Lake Elsinore sent 13 men to the plate and scored seven runs in the first frame en route to an 8-0 win against Inland Empire.
The first five Storm hitters reached base. Center fielder Kai Murphy singled to left field and Oswaldo Linares doubled down the left-field line. The ball rolled into the 66ers bullpen where it disappeared from view. Linares hustled around the bases and made it home. However, the umpiring crew determined that the ball was not playable and Linares ended up at second with a ground-rule double.
“The ground rule is that when you have a bench situation like that — the player in left field did exactly [the right thing],” said Storm manager Pete Zamora. “If he believes that he can’t reach in there and grab it right away, he puts his hands up — everybody will run. As a coach, you are told to just score all the runs. Now, when the play is over, the umpire will go out there and check. What happened was that there was a sweatshirt on the ground and the ball got tucked into the sweatshirt. So when he pulled the sweatshirt [he saw the ball]. So once the umpire sees that the ball was not accessible, it’s a double and the runners go back. The umpires got that one exactly right.”
After a walk to Samuel Zavala, third baseman Devin Ortiz hit a bloop single to center field that scored a pair. Nick Vogt added an RBI groundout to make it 3-0. With two runners on, Victor Duarte demolished a fastball from Inland Empire starter Mason Albright that went well over the left field wall to make it a 6-0 lead. The homer was Duarte’s first of the season.
“[Duarte] is a consummate pro,” said Zamora. “He’s been one of our silent leaders. Yeah, he doesn’t get to play every time because of the talent in front of him but he understands it. He’s got a great attitude, he’s a great teammate and he can hit when he gets his chances. He doesn’t pout when he doesn’t. If you make mistakes to him, he will make you pay. It was a big [home run]. That ball went a long way. He can run into some baseballs but that ball was really hit. You can tell when a guy like that hits the ball like that because the whole team is jumping because of the person he is. He’s been huge for us; he can play first base, he can catch, he can DH at times. I love having Duarte on this team.”
While the Storm offense was the key early, Henry Williams became the story in the middle innings. The former third-round pick put together his best outing as a professional. Using a fastball that touched 93 and a solid mix of changeups and curveballs, Williams plowed through the 66ers lineup. Williams — who underwent Tommy John surgery before the Padres drafted him in the third round last year — pitched six innings for the first time as a professional. He allowed just two hits and struck out four. Williams has typically been limited to a pitch count of 65 or so this season. He needed just 61 to complete his six innings of work.
“It took him a while to get his feet wet,” said Zamora. [At the start of the season] he was in Arizona getting ready and he was kind of caught in that non-game atmosphere where he was going in and getting his two innings. We’ve kind of caught him up to that competitive mode with holding runners and doing the little things that maybe you don’t do as you are getting ready.
“His last two outings he’s been challenged to compete more and show us the reason why we did take him where we did and I thought today was phenomenal. One of the hardest things to do is get a 7-0 lead and be able to pitch with it. Everyone says it is easy to pitch with a lead but sometimes it’s not because you can get a little lackadaisical but I think he just stepped on their throat right there and said ‘in order to beat us, I’m gonna shove it down your throat and see what you guys can do.
“He was able to land his breaking ball which made his fastball play up a lot more. The starts before, sometimes the breaking ball was a little inconsistent. Today, he was able to land it. He was able to get it to the bottom of the zone and then shoot some heaters up. He’s got a sneaky heater. I think he just put it all together tonight and it was good to see.”
Rosman Verdugo connected on his second homer of the season in the fifth inning. Verdugo didn’t necessarily square the ball up but he showed enough strength to lift in over the left field wall. After going nearly three months without a homer, the Ensenada native has two over the last two weeks. … Murphy had a single and a triple in the first inning as the Storm batted around. The 22-year-old tied a career-high with five total bases. … Wilton Castillo made his first appearance with the Storm this season and picked up the three-inning save — the second of his career.