By the final pitch, only a few hundred remained as the Modesto Nuts bested the Storm 3-2 in a 14-inning affair.
Left-handed pitcher Joey Lucchesi got the opening day nod for the Storm and started the evening off in style. Lucchesi had excellent command of his fastball to start and struck out the side in order.
After breezing through the first two innings, Lucchesi ran into trouble in the third inning. He allowed a home run to number-nine hitter Ricky Eusebio, a no-doubter that cleared the left field wall. After inducing a ground-out, Lucchesi walked lead-off hitter Chris Mariscal and allowed a single and walked another batter to load the bases. A big inning was avoided when third baseman Logan Taylor grounded out to end the inning.
“He (Lucchesi) did good. He was spotting very well with his fastball but he was getting behind with his secondary pitches but overall he did well. He was dominating with his fastball,” said Storm manager Edwin Rodriguez shortly after the Storm loss.
Lucchesi allowed a second home run in the fourth inning, another deep drive to left off of the bat of Modesto designated hitter Gianfranco Wawoe that put the Nuts up by two runs.
Lucchesi pitched four innings, allowing the two earned runs on four hits, with a pair of walks. Lunches struck out six and threw 80 pitches -- 48 for strikes.
Lake Elsinore tied the game in the bottom of the fifth when center fielder Michael Gettys crushed a fastball to deep left for his first homer of the season. Gettys finished 1-for-4 with three strikeouts, although he did reach base on a walk and an HBP.
After Lucchesi left, the Storm bullpen shut down the Modesto lineup for nine innings. RHP Chris Huffman who was the Storm’s most consistent starter in 2016, pitched three perfect innings with three strikeouts. World Baseball Classic star Jose Castillo pitched two scoreless innings, pitching around a pair of walks.
In the top of the 14th inning, Modesto was able to push the winning run across. Storm reliever Trevor Frank walked the lead-off batter and allowed a single to the next batter. After a sacrifice bunt, Frank retired the next batter on a fly out to shallow left.
With two outs, Modesto designated hitter singled on a ball that bounced off of the bag. While the winning run scored, shortstop Javier Guerra backed up the play and retrieved the ball on a slide and threw out a runner headed to third to end the inning.
While Guerra was 0-for-5 at the plate, he made several nice plays in the field, routinely showing off the plus-arm scouts raved about when San Diego acquired him in 2015.
“He (Guerra) played very solid. He made a couple of plays in the six-hole, he went to his left really well. He made all of the routine plays, which is a good sign for him,” said Rodriguez.
The Storm could not mount a comeback in the bottom of the 14th, as they were retired in order. Modesto infielder Jordan Cowan pitched the final two innings to earn the opening day win. He did not allow a hit in his two innings of work.
El Cajon native Trevor Frank took the loss for the Storm in his organizational debut. He was acquired by San Diego in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft back in December.
“Overall I think everyone had good at-bats ... they were battling. I think it is a matter of timing, with this being the first game of the season. Overall they were taking good at-bats,” said Rodriguez.
First baseman Josh Naylor went 0-for-6 with a pair of strikeouts. On both strikeouts, Naylor thought he drew ball four while tossing the bat, only to be rung up.
“I am not worried about Josh Naylor -- he is going to be fine. I think he hit the ball hard twice in his first two at-bats. I think with this being the first team, all of them needs to work on the strike zone and be a little more aggressive,” said Rodriguez.
Key Statistics: CF Michael Gettys, 1-for-4, HR (1) RS, BB, HBP, 2 RBI; DH Ty France, 1-for-6, 2B; LHP Joey Lucchesi, 4 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K; RHP Chris Huffman, 3 IP, 3 K; RHP Colby Blueberg, 2 IP, 3 K; RHP Trevor Frank (L, 0-1) IP, 2 H, ER, BB.
STORM NOTES: The organization placed top prospect Anderson Espinoza on the 7-day DL with what is being described as forearm soreness. There is no word on the seriousness of the injury, although for what is worth, Espinoza was in attendance in Lake Elsinore Thursday night. The team added RHP Tyler Barnette, who was sent down from Double-A San Antonio.