After a 1-0 Storm win Sunday over Inland Empire, the playoff picture in the South division remains unsettled with one game to play. The defending champions are in need of a win on Labor Day, combined with a Rancho Cucamonga Quakes loss in Bakersfield, to secure Lake Elsinore’s eighth consecutive playoff appearance.
On a fan appreciation night and a Sunday Funday, four Storm pitchers combined on the team’s eighth shutout and a victory over the Angels’ affiliate in front of 3,723 fans.
Starting pitcher Burch Smith sought to match All-Star pitcher Matt Andriese for his 10th win of the season.
Smith retired 11 of the first 12 batters and worked five shutout innings to set the tone. He was matched by 66ers starter Aaron Meade who retired the first 13 batters of the game before a Michael Wing bunt single broke up perfection in the bottom of the fifth.
The Storm scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the sixth when Donavan Tate led off with a walk, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jairo Gomez and later scored on a two-out RBI single to left field by newcomer Stephen Carmon, making his first California League start.
Relievers Robert Lara, Jeff Ibarra and Jerry Sullivan followed Smith and combined for the final 12 outs of the game.
Lara picked up his first win with the Storm this season and Sullivan recorded his first save.
Michael Wing had two of the four hits for the Storm, who now lead the season series with the 66ers 13 wins to 12.
On Labor Day, Matt Branham, the starter from Columbia, SC, will look for his eighth win of the season, in the team’s 140th and final game of the regular season. Branham will match up against Left-hander Eswarlin Jimenez making his third Cal League start.
The Storm encourages fans to head to The Diamond Monday for the first ever Beer Blowout. With the game set to go off at 2 p.m. we are tapping the kegs and clearing the fridges, so come enjoy $1 beers and sodas.
For tickets or more information visit the Storm website at stormbaseball.com or call the front office at 951-245-4487.
*Contributed by the Lake Elsinore Storm