So Nate Schierholtz helped San Jose win the title outright as the Giants completed a late-game rally to beat Lake Elsinore, 3-1, on Monday night at Municipal Stadium.
Storm starter Dirk Hayhurst stymied the Giants through the first six innings, but reliever Matt Varner got the visiting ballclub in trouble in the seventh by plunking Kevin Frandsen and walking Brian Buscher in consecutive at-bats. Brian Horwitz knotted up the score by punching a single through the left side, scoring Frandsen from second.
Schierholtz then delivered the go-ahead run as he ripped a line-drive single to right, bringing in Buscher to give the Giants a 2-1 lead. Travis Ishikawa provided an insurance run with a sacrifice fly to center that brought in Horwitz with the third and final run of the season.
"The guys were a little down heading into that inning, but once Kevin got on base, everyone started to get real into it again, jumping around and pumping their fists," reliever Jason Waddell said.
"These kids showed a lot of excitement and energy during that inning, coming through with the clutch hits with runners on," said Giants manager Lenn Sakata, also the league's Manager of the Year. "This is probably the best team I've ever managed as far as the emotion, character and work ethic they've shown all year long. I'm very proud of them."
Waddell (1-1) got the win in dramatic fashion, striking out Fernando Valenzuela Jr. with a runner on first base to end the game and start the celebration between the mound and home plate. The southpaw was almost unhittable through the last three innings, striking out seven while allowing just two hits.
Colt Morton put a brief scare into the San Jose crowd by leading off the top of the ninth with a single, but Waddell crushed any hopes the Storm had by fanning the last three batters.
"I've never been in a game like this before, and that last inning was pretty nerve-wracking," Waddell said. "I was kind of ticked off that I didn't get that grounder up the middle, but I had a good slider tonight and was able to shut them down after that."
Waddell fared better in the series finale than what he did during his Game 2 start, taking the loss after giving up a big home run to Morton as Lake Elsinore won that game, 4-1.
San Jose starter Jeff Petersen was solid during the first six innings, limiting Lake Elsinore to a run on four hits while striking out five and walking one.
The Giants were on the verge of elimination for the last three games when they fell behind to the Storm, 2-0, but used home field to their full advantage, as San Jose had beaten Lake Elsinore in the last five games there entering the decisive game. Sakata said he had felt very good about the Giants' chances to come back if they could win Game 3.
Hayhurst was on top of his game from the get-go, retiring the first six batters he faced before Travis Ishikawa led off the third with a single. The base hit barely affected the 24-year-old righty as he retired the next 12 batters in a row, and he only went to a three-ball count twice during his six-inning stint.
The San Diego Padres' eighth-round pick in 2003, Hayhurst threw just 71 pitches over his six innings of work, but was pulled after the sixth since he pitched an inning during Saturday's 9-3 loss.
Varner (1-1), the winner in Game 1, took the loss as he was charged with all three runs on a hit, a walk and a hit batter while retiring just one batter. Drew Macias broke the scoreless tie as he belted a leadoff home run deep to right field off Petersen. Valenzuela Jr. was the only batter for either team to reach base twice, going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.