Blanks blasts away at 66ers

Launches three-run homer as Storm force decisive game

(Mike Huffstatler/

September 6, 2007 11:28 PM ET

Kyle Blanks hit a three-run homer Thursday as the Lake Elsinore Storm topped the Inland Empire 66ers, 10-7, to tie their California League first-round playoff series at 1-1.

Blanks singled and scored in the second inning, then launched a blast in the third that opened opened the floodgates.

"Our offense just exploded," Blanks said. "When I hit that ball and we started compiling runs, I thought it was the turning point."

The 20-year-old Cal League All-Star was intentionally walked and scored on Juan Ciriaco's two-run single during a four-run seventh.

"It was a snowball effect. I was thinking, 'We've got the lead, just keep doing what you're doing,'" said Blanks, who hit 24 homers and plated 100 runs during the season. "It was a battle back and forth. They'd come out and score and we'd come right back out and score."

The 66ers tacked on two late runs, but Lake Elsinore was able to suppress the rally.

"It was very close," Blanks said. "There's always some kind of feeling where they can come back, but we were able to keep them down tonight."

Craig Cooper went 3-for-5, scoring three runs and driving in two. Josh Alley singled twice and scored a run and Seth Johnston hit an RBI double and scored in the seventh for the Storm.

"Up and down the lineup, everyone was doing their part," Blanks said. "Anyone in any situation -- pitchers, hitters, everybody. We had to keep hitting and come out with a win."

Lake Elsinore reliever Richie Daigle (1-0) allowed three runs on five hits with a walk and a strikeout over three innings. Starter Cory Luebke yielded two runs -- one earned -- on four hits while fanning three and walking two in two frames.

Jamie Hoffmann went 4-for-5 with a solo homer, two runs scored and two RBIs for Inland Empire. Joshua Bell collected three hits and an RBI, while Adam Godwin went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored for Inland Empire.

Reliever Francisco Felix (0-1) gave up one run on two hits and a walk with two strikeouts in one inning. Starter Jesus Castillo allowed five runs -- three earned -- on six hits, fanned five and walked two over 4 2/3 frames.

Michael Blinn is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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