The Texas League leaders in ERA didn't disappoint in their opening round playoff series, allowing four runs over three games and putting a punctuation mark on the series with a shutout on Friday.
"Sometimes the hitting takes over for the pitching and sometimes the pitching does its job," Paul Abraham said. "Collectively, for the last month or so, we have been hitting on all pistons.
"Today, yesterday, and the day before, we have done a fantastic job of keeping the ball down and getting guys out. You can't go wrong with that."
Wade LeBlanc (1-0) paced the pitching staff to its 12th shutout of the season. With a team ERA of 3.81 during the regular season, 26 points better than its closest competitor, five pitchers combined to finish the deed.
LeBlanc allowed just two hits over six innings while striking out 10. It is the second time in three starts and fifth time this year he has notched 10 punch-outs. The southpaw has won his last five starts, giving up three runs on 17 hits while striking out 35 over 29 innings.
The 23-year-old has worked 11.2 innings of scoreless playoff ball, giving up five hits, not walking a batter and striking out 17 over the last two years while compiling a 2-0 record between San Antonio and Fort Wayne.
Will Venable had two hits in four at bats, singling in Matt Antonelli in the third inning to break a scoreless tie and singled in Antonelli again in the fifth. He also added a sacrifice bunt that led to a third run two innings later.
The outfielder went 5-for-12 in the series and improved to 12-for-23 with two walks over his last two years of playoff action between San Antonio and Fort Wayne. Venable led all Missions players with five sacrifice bunts during the regular season.
Brett Dowdy homered for the second time in the series and added his third double of the three-gamer, giving him five extra base hits against Frisco. He also scored twice, giving him three runs scored and three RBIs over his last three. His homer in the sixth was sandwiched between four straight innings where San Antonio plated one run.
Paul Abraham worked a scoreless inning – his second of the series. He allowed a two out single before a fly out ended the frame. The right-hander has a streak of nine straight scoreless innings dating back to the regular season. He held righties to a .156 average over the course of the season and gave up just nine extra base hits in 52.2 innings.
"I am starting to get the dust off from the injury," Abraham said. "It is tough to come back and start right on the first day back throwing strikes. You kind of get your feel back. The last two weeks I have been able to throw the ball where I want it to go.
"The fastball velocity is not quite back to where I would like it to be, but I am keeping the ball down in the zone and getting ground balls which is what you want. The slider is getting its snap back from the middle of the season."
San Antonio will face Springfield (Cardinals) for the Texas League Championship
Will Inman is slated to start game one of the series.
San Antonio has won or shared 10 Texas League Championships, the last coming in 2003. San Antonio is 97-99 overall in the playoffs, first appearing in 1933.
"We are on cloud nine right now but the next couple of days will settle down and we will get ready for Springfield," Abraham said.
Lake Elsinore won 8-2 over Inland Empire (best of three)
The Storm came into the game ranked second in the California League in batting average and ERA, combining both to take the series. Lake Elsinore missed out on its 11th shutout when Mike DeMark surrendered two runs in the eighth.
Steve Garrison (1-0) stymied Inland Empire over seven innings, scattering five hits and striking out eight. Three players reached scoring position but no runner got past second base against the left-hander.
The New Jersey native has allowed two runs or less in six of his eight California League starts, including the playoffs. His eight strikeouts mark the highest total he has notched since joining the San Diego system.
Josh Alley's day didn't start too well. After flying out in the bottom of the opening frame, the outfielder grounded into a double play to end a threat in the following inning.
Alley then singled in the fourth inning and came around to score on a Sean Kazmar double and capped a three-run fifth with a bases loaded single.
"At the time, they were still within reach," Alley said. "I knew it was a big situation. I swung at a 2-0 pitch and got big on it, swung through it. After that, I tried to get composed a little bit. The ball was away and I went with it. It worked out for us."
Primarily used out of the leadoff spot this season, he hit .327 with runners in scoring position, notching 16 RBIs over his final 20 games.
"Being healthy," Alley said of his success. "The injury was something I dealt with all of last year and I finally got it figured out in spring training. I got to get it worked on. Since I have been back I feel I can run again and my overall game feels better."
Juan Ciriaco doubled for the fourth time in the series, giving him five extra base hits in the three-game set. He ended the night with two hits in four at bats with a walk, a run scored and three RBIs. He singled in a run in the fifth and came around to score on Alley's base knock and doubled with runners on the corners, scoring both, in the sixth to cap the scoring for Lake Elsinore, putting the Storm in command with an 8-0 lead.
Ciriaco collected six RBIs in the series and has 31 RBIs over his last 30 games dating back to the regular season. Yet, the infielder hit just .238 with runners in scoring position over 63 at bats for the Storm. Thirteen of his RBIs, however, came with the bases loaded – where he hit .625.
The Storm will face Lancaster (Red Sox) in the South Division Final
"Being down 0-1 and knowing you have to win two straight – it was a battle," Alley said. "We were able to come through and obviously we have a little confidence going into this next series. But it doesn't mean much. We are playing a good team and have to go out and execute and find a way to win the close games. That is probably what it is going to be like going against Lancaster."