For the eighth consecutive season, the Lake Elsinore Storm are playoff bound as the team earned a come-from-behind 5-2 victory over South division rivals, the Inland Empire 66ers.
Thanks to a loss by the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes Sunday, the Storm will begin the playoffs at home against the Lancaster JetHawks on Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 7:05 p.m.
Rolando Gomez gave the 66ers the early lead in the first inning with a one-out triple followed by a Kaleb Cowart sacrifice fly scoring Gomez.
In the top of the third, time would repeat itself as Gomez hit his second triple of the game and Cowart would drive him in on a single to right field.
With the Storm down 2-0, Donavan Tate would lead off the bottom of the third with a deep line drive to left center field for his second triple of the season. Robert Kral’s sacrifice fly to left field scored Tate to pick up the first run of the game for the Storm.
In the fourth, after a Justin Miller double, Tommy Medica hit his team leading 19th home run over the wall in right center to give the Storm a 3-2 lead. Medica’s hit would be the eventual game winner for the Storm.
Starter Matt Branham won his eighth game on the mound for the Storm in a five-inning outing where he gave up two runs on six hits with three strikeouts and was backed up with solid performances from three Storm relievers.
The combination of Ryan Quigley, Jeff Ibarra and Jerry Sullivan allowed only three hits over the final four innings holding batters to no runs and no walks retiring 12 of the final 15 batters.
In the seventh a 404-foot home run over the center field wall by Kral would give the Storm a 4-2 lead. Following Kral’s third home run of the home stand, Rico Noel hit a single to center field and stole his single-season franchise record 90th stolen base and scored on a Casey McElroy RBI single.
Closer Jerry Sullivan earned his second save on the season to preserve Branham’s victory.
The Storm leads the season series against the JetHawks 16-9 including an impressive 13-1 record at home. In their most recent series, Lancaster took three of four from the Storm at the Hanger back on August 24-27.
*Contributed by the Lake Elsinore Storm