The game began just as one might expect. Billy Hamilton hit a slow roller to short, and Michael Wing, playing deep, rushed his throw and sailed it wide of the bag for an error. Hamilton promptly stole second and third (his 97th and 98th of the season), and scored on a Theo Bowe sacrifice fly to give Bakersfield an early 1-0 lead on Matt Andriese (L, 6-4) and the Storm.
The Blaze tacked on a couple more in the 3rd. Tucker Barnhart led off with a single, and one out later, Hamilton moved him up to second with a grounder into rightfield. After a wild pitch advanced the runners, the Storm brought the infield halfway, and Theo Bowe rolled one over the pitcher's mound for an infield single, driving in Barnhart, and putting runners at the corners. The next man up, Travis Mattair, hit a slow roller to third, scoring Hamilton, and giving the Blaze a 3-0 lead.
The Storm would chip away from there. Josh Smith (W, 7-4) sailed through the order the first time, but the second time through Justin Miller got Smith, tagging the Blaze starter for a solo homer to put the Storm on the board.
Then, two innings later, the Storm added another off reliever Andrew Brackman. A single and a double set the table for a potentially big inning, but Brackman buckled down and gave up just the one run, maintaining the narrow 3-2 Blaze edge into the 7th in his two innings of relief.
The Blaze got a tiny bit of insurance in the 7th on the second Storm error of the game and a Niko Vasquez double, and that would be more than enough cushion. Chris Joyce tossed a scoreless 8th, and Kyle McMyne (S, 3) saved his third straight since taking over the closer's role, and the Blaze grabbed the opener of the three-game series in Elsinore. The winning decision was the 6th straight for Josh Smith, as he improved to 7-4 with this victory.
With the team win, the Blaze improves to 6-5 in the second half and 47-34 overall, the best record in the League. The series continues Monday at 7:05pm, with Bakersfield's Jamie Walczak taking on Elsinore's Burch Smith in another battle of righthanders.
Be sure to tune in to the online cast at BakersfieldBlaze.com at 6:55pm, when Dan Besbris fires up the pregame show!