Storm Ride Three-Run Eighth to Series Opening Win

LAKE ELSINORE- In batting practice Thursday afternoon, Juan Ciriaco spent a little extra time working on shooting the ball the other way. In the eighth inning, he did exactly what he had rehearsed earlier, dropping a two-out bloop single down the line to drive in the go-ahead run in the Storm's 7-4 victory over the San Jose Giants. With the win, the Storm opened a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

The Storm scored two more in the eighth on back-to-back, bases-loaded walks by Chris Kolkhorst and Drew Macias, before closer Leo Rosales pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save in the playoffs and 29th overall on the year.

"I was looking for a pitch middle-away to be able to drive something up the middle or to right," said Ciriaco, through Rosales who translated. "I didn't get much on it, but it was enough."

The late inning offense gave the Storm a win on a night when staff ace Cesar Carrillo was off his game. Never finding his command, the first-round pick allowed four runs on five hits, five walks and two hit batsmen.

The Giants jumped on Carrillo for two runs in the second, smacking three straight doubles to open the inning. He regrouped to escape without further damage, relying heavily on his curve, and finished the inning with a pair of strikeouts. He fanned only one other batter on the night and never was higher than 92 on the stadium radar gun.

In the fourth, the Giants added two more runs without the benefit of a hit. But once again, Carrillo escaped further damage, stranding two of the seven Giants he left on base in the outing.

Even though he struggled with control, Carrillo's manager, Rick Renteria, credited him for the 98-pitch performance.

"Carrillo kept us in the ballgame. We had a couple plays [in the fourth inning] with the infield in where we could have eliminated a few runs, but we didn't."

After Carrillo, Brad Blackwell went one and a third scoreless innings despite three walks of his own. When Todd Jennings opened the seventh with a double and advanced to third on a groundout by Travis Ishikawa, Matt Varner replaced Blackwell and struck out a pair to end the inning. Varner went on to strike out two more in the eighth, earning the win for his effort.

"(Varner) has been outstanding," said Renteria. "And really, I commend all of our relief corps… I can't say enough about them."

Colt Morton was at the heart of the Storm offense all night, with a single, double and homer and two runs scored. It was also his leadoff single in the eighth that set the table for the winning run, although pinch-runner Craig Johnson scored the winning run.

Drew Macias had a double, run scored and a stolen base to go with his three walks on the night. Ciriaco finished the night three for four, but was caught stealing to end the fourth.

The Storm once again played crisp defense in the playoffs, turning in their fourth straight errorless game. Brett Bonvechio, whose fielding has improved late in the season, made three fine efforts in the field, including a controversial ninth-inning play on grounder by Jennings. Although his throw pulled Michael Johnson off the bag, Johnson was able to tag Jennings – a call that was originally missed by first base umpire Lance Barrett, but corrected when the umpires huddled at Renteria's request.

"All you want is for the right call to be made," said Renteria. "I'm so glad they had four umpires. It really does give you an opportunity to appeal a judgment call."

Lightning Quicks:

Outfielder Jordan Pickens was activated for the series after Luke Steidlmayer went on the disabled list with arm soreness.

Storm pitching allowed the leadoff batter to reach base in each of the first seven innings, surrendering three doubles and four walks. Matt Varner ended the streak by getting Clay Timpner to fly out to left to open the eighth.

The Storm's first run scored when San Jose leftfielder Nate Schierholtz had a short fly ball off the bat of Fernando Valenzuela, Jr. go through his glove. Had he made the catch, Colt Morton, who failed to tag up on the fly ball, would not have been able to score.

After the umpires called Jennings out in the ninth, the Giants' third baseman twice charged at the crew chief Jason Milsap and hurled his batting helmet halfway across the field before he and pitching coach Trevor Wilson were ejected from the game. Jennings, who had two doubles on the night, may face a suspension for his actions.

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