The defending California League Champions Lake Elsinore Storm had fanfare and an Opening Night crowd in support of their 19th season at The Diamond.
It was the Stockton Ports, whom they beat for the title last season, that put five runs on the board in the second and the Storm was unable to find a comeback as the Port beat Lake Elsinore 7-2 in front of 7,569 fans.
In the second inning against Storm starter Matt Hardy, the Ports found their rhythm. Max Stassi picked up the first hit of the game, splitting outfielders with a double to right center.
After Rashun Dixon reached on an error, Tony Thompson hit a double of his own to center to put Stockton up 2-0.
Two batters later, Nino Leyja singled, scoring Thompson and keeping the inning alive as the Ports walked away from the inning with five runs on five hits.
The Storm countered with their first run of the night against Stockton starter Blake Treinen, who retired the first eight Storm batters of the game before Rico Noel, Cory Spangenberg and Everett Williams had consecutive singles with two outs in the third as Williams’ base hit scored Noel to make it a 5-1 game.
In the seventh, Josh Whitaker and Miles Head each doubled to tack on another run for the Ports. The Storm matched them with a run of their own after a double from Eddy Rodriguez, a single by Chris Bisson and an RBI single by Noel that cut the lead to 6-2.
Stockton lefty Sean Doolittle entered the game and struck out back-to-back hitters to halt the rally.
The Ports tacked on an insurance run in the ninth off a 415-foot Whitaker home run for a 7-2 final.
Treinen went six and one-third innings with eight hits, four strikeouts and no walks in earning the win. Hardy, an 11-game winner in 2011 at Fort Wayne, suffered the loss. He finished his five innings retiring 10 of the last 11 batters.
Noel led the Storm with three hits, one run, one RBI, one stolen base and a defensive gem in the first inning with a leaping catch against the right centerfield wall.
The Storm will face Stockton in game two of the four game series on a Fireworks Friday night when Matt Jackson opposes fellow right-hander A.J. Cole at 7:05 p.m.
~Eric Theiss, Lake Elsinore Storm