Even when Zach Eflin felt like he wasn't commanding his best pitches as well as he would have liked, the hitters he was facing couldn't figure them out.
The Padres' No. 11 prospect allowed one hit over six innings in his first scoreless outing since April, and Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore blanked High Desert, 9-0, on Sunday at Heritage Field.
"I thought I threw very well," Eflin said. "My two-seamer was working very well. I had four walks, which I wasn't really too happy about, but I did a good job getting ahead of hitters, forcing ground balls, forcing the ball in play.
"Especially in a park like that, my game plan was to attack on two-seams away and just rely on my fastball on inside pitches ahead and behind in counts. I feel like I battled today well."
High Desert managed only two baserunners over the first three innings against Eflin (7-5), and Bryan Brito was the only Maverick player to get a hit when he singled in the third. Eflin faced multiple baserunners just once, when he issued back-to-back walks to Jordy Lara and Tyler Marlette in the fourth.
"On the four walks, I felt like I had lost my two-seam a little bit," the 20-year-old right-hander said. "I had a lot of confidence to start and it kind of died down a little bit. I picked it back up, but it was either running a little too much or not running. I could aim for a ball outside, and it comes back and goes over the black. It would either stay up or die down in the dirt. I just lost a bit of feel for that."
Fortunately for Eflin, the Storm provided their starter with an early lead. Benji Gonzalez's sacrifice -- and a subsequent throwing error by Mavericks third baseman Zach Shank -- enabled Mallex Smith to score the game's first run in the top of the first inning. In the fourth, Lake Elsinore added three runs on RBI singles by Jeremy Baltz and Alberth Martinez and a groundout by Gonzalez.
"It's always easier to pitch with a lead," Eflin said. "That's the main thing I like stressing. There's a little bit of leeway there. You can pitch comfortably. You don't have to necessarily pitch around hitters, you can attack them. It opens up a lot of doors for you in the way of mind-set on a pitch."
Following the two walks in the fourth, Eflin faced the minimum in the fifth and sixth, retiring Mariners' No. 10 prospect Gabby Guerrero on a grounder to end his night. Behind Eflin, the Storm bullpen combined for three three-hit innings.
"You've got to love that," Eflin said. "I love when the bullpen does good, especially on a night like tonight when the offense is working. Everything was going right today. You can't really ask for too much more than a strong bullpen and a strong offense."
High Desert starter Dylan Unsworth (5-8) fanned four in his first two innings but gave up four runs -- three earned -- on seven hits and a walk over four.