LAKE ELSINORE — The Storm took their second win of the series over the Visalia Rawhide 4-1 behind a dominant start by righthander Henry Baez and an electric performance on the bases by 2023 fourth-round selection Homer Bush, Jr.
“I think he has zero ego, and he goes about his business the right way,” said Storm manager and former pitching coach in the system, Pete Zamora.
“Our pitching coach Thomas Eshelman has worked well with him. He was a decent guy for us in April, and now he’s a bona fide leader. He’s taken over for Robby Snelling as our staff ace.”
Thursday, Baez continued to build on a solid season with six shutout innings of two-hit ball and six punchouts against only a single walk. On the year, the 6-foot-3 Dominican-born righty has a 3.24 ERA in 83.1 innings. He has been particularly effective in his last two starts, only allowing one run in 13.2 innings.
“He’s added a bit of a split-change to throw to left-handed hitters,” said Zamora. “But I’ve been impressed with the command of the breaking ball and the ability to throw his fastball inside and outside the zone.
“Just from my eyes as an ex-pitching coach, I can see him developing a more mature and consistent delivery. He’s also turned into a quiet leader in the clubhouse.”
The Storm’s offense was held scoreless until the fifth inning, when a slow curve hit center fielder Homer Bush, Jr., who then advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw. The Visalia pitcher then balked him over to third before Samuel Zavala singled to right field to drive him home.
After a walk to Rosman Verdugo, Zavala scored on Devin Ortiz’s single to center to give the home team a 2-0 lead.
“He’s electric, which I think would be the word to describe Homer,” smiled Zamora. “We are now giving Tyler Robertson a hard time – who also can really run – that Homer is faster. To have those two guys at the top of the order is special.”
Righthander Nick Thwaits came in to replace Baez in the seventh inning and got off to a rough start. He gave up a pair of hits to the first two batters, followed by a sacrifice fly and then a single to give Visalia runners on first and second with one out and down by a run.
Thwaits bounced back with a soft pop-up to third and strikeout to end the inning and keep Lake Elsinore ahead.
Bush and Robertson teamed up for the rest of the offense in the seventh inning. Bush, the Padres’ fourth-rounder last month, led off the inning with a walk before Robertson lined a double to the left field corner. Robertson advanced easily to third on an ill-advised attempt to catch Bush at the plate, then came home on a wild pitch.
“When Homer gets dialed in and gets his first season under his belt, he will be something,” said Zamora. “This kid is real; he has the bloodlines of a father who played major league baseball, and he will be fun to watch.”
After two torrid weeks in the ACL to open his professional career, Bush has reached base six times in his first three games with the Storm.
Cole Paplham came in for the ninth and earned his eighth save, getting the three Rawhide batters in order with a pair of strikeouts. The hard-throwing righty has struck out 14 in 10.2 innings since coming off the IL in late June.
Notes: The Storm might have the most athletic outfield in the system with Bush Jr., Robertson, and Zavala. Robertson is 6-foot-4, Bush, Jr. is 6-foot-3, and Zavala appears taller than his listed 6-foot-1. All three can run, have some power, and play all three outfield positions. … Devin Ortiz made several difficult plays look easy tonight at third base, particularly coming in on slow rollers.