Nick Hundley had a shot in the first inning to make a serious statement. With one out and the bases loaded, however, he struck out. Brett Dowdy picked him up in his own big to win MVP honors – smacking a triple, his second off the postseason, to clear the bags and stake the Missions to an early 3-0 lead.
The Missions piled on four more runs in the top of the second inning. A sharp grounder up the hole with the bases loaded by Chase Headley scored one before Peter Ciofrone doubled with the bags packed, plating two. Hundley came through with a single to score Headley before Dowdy grounded into a double play to end the frame.
"Between the early runs and the great defense behind me, it made it really easy to pitch, that's for sure," starter Mike Ekstrom said. "It is great that we can end on such a high note as this."
The double play grounder was forgivable. Dowdy collected three hits, falling a single shy of the cycle while driving in six runs on the day.
Dowdy inched ahead of everyone on the Missions with his 11 postseason RBIs. He bested his RBI total for every single month of the season. He also notched nine extra base hits during the playoffs, besting his top month of the season for extra base hits.
"Dowdy has been on fire," Ekstrom noted. "Throughout the whole playoffs and August too; he has been tearing it up.
"Our offense, one through eight – not counting me because I couldn't hit – but anybody can get the job done. We have been on fire."
Ekstrom (1-0) had been biding his time, not seeing any action for the Missions during this playoff season. He got the start on Saturday, his first time on the mound since his August 31 start.
"It was nice to get back in and contribute," Ekstrom said. "Sitting on the sidelines and watching all this happen – it was nice to be a part of it. We went a whole pay period without playing – it was nice to get back out there."
The rest paid off. Ekstrom had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning and got the first two outs in the frame before allowing back-to-back singles. A pop out ended the inning. He walked three and struck out five over his seven scoreless, tossing 106 pitches, 68 for strikes, and recording 10 ground ball outs.
"They got a hit in the seventh with two outs, but they hit the ball real hard," Ekstrom said. "Our guys were all over the place making plays.
"I was just trying to let them put it in play – our defense was playing fantastic behind me."
Leading 11-0 in the ninth inning, Springfield made a valiant comeback. Neil Jamison pitched to five batters and did not record an out, giving up three hits, including a homer, and two walks. Edwin Moreno came on with the bases loaded and allowed all three inherited runners to score while giving up two of his own.
Lake Elsinore lost 2-0 to San Jose [lead best-of-five series, 2-1]
A total of 10 hits were mustered by the two teams. A first inning single led to a run on a sacrifice fly and a solo homer was the only other blemish against Stephen Faris (1-1). The right-hander allowed two runs on five hits over six innings while fanning a half-dozen. Faris, the only player to notch three starts, has allowed five runs over 18.2 innings during the postseason, allowing 15 hits while walking just two and striking out 13.
The Storm managed five baserunners all night and three of those were erased. David Freese's double play grounder wiped out a Sean Kazmar single. Craig Cooper led off the second with a single but was picked off – a play that saw hitting coach Max Venable get ejected. Juan Ciriaco notched a one-out single in the third but was picked off trying to steal second base.
No Lake Elsinore runner would reach scoring position.