On a night when Billy Hamilton stole his 100th base of the season, the Bakersfield Blaze had its spirits dampened by some truly remarkable defensive plays by the Lake Elsinore Storm, and the boys from Bako came up a run short on Monday, 3-2.
The Storm scored first off Blaze starter Jamie Walczak (L, 2-2), who, despite taking the defeat, had his finest outing to date. In the second inning, Tommy Medica led off with a single, and a walk moved him to second. A rare passed ball charged to Tucker Barnhart moved the runners along, and the Storm got an unearned run home on a grounder to third to lead 1-0.
The Blaze came back to tie it shortly thereafter. In the top of the 3rd inning, Niko Vasquez led off against Burch Smith (W, 7-4) with his 3rd double in as many days, and a groundout brought him home, each team paralleling one another for the 1-1 tie.
Unfortunately for the Blaze, the tie was relatively short lived. After an easy 3rd for Walczak, the Storm took the lead for good in the 4th. Vince Belnome homered just inside the leftfield foul pole to give Lake Elsinore a 2-1 edge, and 3 innings later, after Walczak had departed the game (going 6.0 innings, allowing just 1 earned run), the Storm slugged another solo shot to make it 3-1.
That run proved vital, as the Blaze mounted a series of rallies in the 7th and 8th innings off Storm reliever Greg Gonzales. In the 7th inning, with 2 on and nobody out, the Blaze opted not to bunt and grounded into a double play, and in the 8th, with runners at the corners, another double play stymied the rally. The Blaze did get a run in the 8th inning to make it 3-2, but Rico Noel's unbelievable diving grab on Steven Selsky's liner in the 9th (off Kevin Quackenbush, who saved his 15) snatched any momentum away from the Blaze, and Bakersfield dropped another 1-run game.
Of course, the big news of the night, Billy Hamilton grabbed his 100th stolen bag of the year in just 78 games!
The loss drops the Blaze to 6-6 in the second half and 47-35 overall, and the series with the Storm wraps up tomorrow at 6:30pm. Be sure to tune in and listen to Dan Besbris call all the action live on BakersfieldBlaze.com -- Daniel Renken goes for the Blaze, and Mark Pope for the Storm!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.