Storm fans saw yet another impressive outing by starter Burch Smith Monday night at The Diamond. Smith helped the team get a lead and never give it up as the team captured its ninth win of the second half winning 3-2 over the Bakersfield Blaze.
The Storm continues to maintain sole possession of first place going 9-3 in the second half of the season, which is the best record in the second half in the California League.
Smith threw six solid innings, allowing only one run on three hits and struck out eight, picking up his seventh win of the season. In his last six starts, Smith has gone 4-1 in 34 2/3 innings, striking out 42 batters in that span.
In the second inning, Tommy Medica hit a lead off single up the middle to give the Storm a chance early. Infielder Vince Belnome forced a walk to put two on and no outs for the home team. The pair advanced a base on a passed ball. With men in scoring position, Donovan Tate grounded out to third and Medica was able to score, giving the Storm the 1-0 lead.
Medica continued his hitting streak to 18 straight games, currently the third longest hitting streak in the league this season which began back on June 11.
Bakersfield tied up the game in the top of the third when Niko Vasquez doubled to left, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground out to the first baseman.
The Storm was able to answer back quickly in the fourth with Belnome’s bat. The Storm infielder hit a blast that cleared the wall in left field with two outs, regaining the lead for the Storm, up 2-1.
Catcher Eddy Rodriguez hit a home run in the seventh that traveled 420 feet — well over the left center field wall to lead off the inning giving the Storm a 3-2 lead.
Rodriguez is batting .229 and is second on the team in home runs with eight, going 2-for-3 Monday night, including a double in the fourth.
The Blaze picked up a run in the eighth after Reds top prospect Billy Hamilton reached scoring position, stealing his 100th stolen base of the season. He scored on a double play by the Storm, but Cal League All-Star Kevin Quackenbush struck out the side in the ninth to capture his 15th save and a win for the Storm.
The Storm looks to claim the series against Bakersfield on July 3 with a 6:05 p.m. start for the Independence Celebration at The Diamond.
Tickets start at $10 for the game and fans will enjoy the best fireworks show in the area after the game.
*Contributed by Lake Elsinore Storm