Storm clouds keep gathering

Lake Elsinore, CA: Another day, another Storm victory – but this one was a little close. The Storm beat High Desert for their twelfth straight victory, a franchise record, defeating the Mavericks 6-5, who made a game of it before going down for their fourth loss in a row.

The High Desert starters have gone 2-18 with an 8.75 ERA in the second half of the Cal League season and before scoring in the seventh inning the Mavericks had gone twenty-three and two-thirds innings without scoring. So this has not been a banner year for the Mavericks.

Centerfielder Robert Perry led off the game with a home run over the 34-foot right field wall at the Diamond on a 3-2 count.

"The pitcher had some good pitches, but he kind of made a mistake on that pitch," said Perry. "I just took more of a regular swing at middle in pitch. It was more of a reaction."

Starter Richie Daigle wiggled out of multiple jams throughout the evening, stranding two runners in the first and second and three runners in the fourth, sandwiched between an abnormal 1-2-3 inning, for his fifth win of the year.

Shortstop Juan Ciriaco continued his hot hitting with a solid line drive to left field in the second inning, which was assisted by a two base error by High Desert's left fielder. Ciriaco ended the game with a perfect 3-for-3 day and a walk. Mavericks' starter Cibney Bello then walked the next two batters to load the bases for Perry. Perry came back from a 0-2 count to hit a sacrifice fly to score Ciriaco.

"Even if a pitch is pretty close, you have to have confidence in your eye at the plate to take it because in that type of situation you aren't going to be able to do much with an outside strike at your knees," said Perry on his second RBI of the day.

In the top of the third, left fielder Mike Baxter hit his sixth triple in California League play, driving home first baseman Kyle Blanks and third baseman David Freese who led off the inning with singles. Right fielder Craig Cooper brought Baxter home with a sacrifice fly to center.

Mavericks' starter Bello was driven from the game in the bottom of the fourth inning after allowing a double to second baseman Sean Kazmar and hitting both Blanks and Freese. Relief pitcher Jose Escalona was able to get Baxter to ground into a double play to put a tourniquet on the bleeding.

In the fourth and fifth innings, the Mavericks were able to hold off the Storm, despite having runners on third with less than two outs in both innings.

In the sixth, Freese walked, stole second, then came home on two wild pitches to Blanks. Despite another wild pitch and a walk to Ciriaco the Mavericks were able to limit the damage to one run.

In the top of the seventh, the Mavericks broke their drought when Storm relief pitcher Mike DeMark threw two wild pitches to advance Mavericks' designated hitter Mike Saunders home from second who doubled earlier in the inning.

In the eighth inning, the Mavericks generated some of their best offense in the second half, exploding for five hits and three runs and driving Storm relief pitcher Brandon Higelin from the game. John Madden, last year's closer in Fort Wayne, came in and was barely able to escape the inning when Ciriaco stabbed an inning ending line drive.

In the ninth, Storm closer Jon Link allowed a leadoff double to score before coming back to get the final three Maverick batters, two of the last three on strikeouts.

"It's not over to the last out," said Storm manager Carlos Lezcano. "You know Limonta [the Mavericks' first baseman] hit a rope right at Ciriaco. When you're going good that is the third out, when you're going bad it's a bases clearing double.

"That is just baseball."

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