Nate Freiman put up personal-best numbers in almost every offensive category this year. Not content with having a career year, the first baseman now has his sights set on a championship ring.
Selected in the eighth round of the 2009 Draft, the 24-year-old went 4-for-4 with three RBIs on Thursday to help the Lake Elsinore Storm take Game 1 of the best-of-5 Cal League Championship Series, 6-0, over the visiting Stockton Ports.
"I've never played for a championship like this before. Not a real championship where I've made the Finals," Freiman said. "Maybe in Little League?
"It would mean the world to me. We've been together since March 1 this year and some of us have played together for three years going back to Eugene. To be on the top at the end of the year would be incredible."
The Padres farmhand plated two runs on an RBI single in the first inning, drove home Myrio Richard in the third and then singled and scored in the fifth. In the seventh, he hit a two-out single to left field. It marked the sixth time in his three-year career that he collected four hits in a game.
"It was fun," Freiman said. "This is what we have worked all year for. I just tried to hit the ball hard tonight. I was looking to get the barrel on the ball and not really worry where it went."
The 6-foot-7 Duke University graduate is picking up right where he left off in the regular season, when he finished third on the circuit with 111 RBIs and fourth with 61 extra-base hits. In eight postseason appearances, Freiman is batting .387 with a league-leading 10 RBIs and seven runs scored, one behind teammate Tommy Medica.
On Thursday, Lake Elsinore catcher Eddy Rodriguez smacked a two-run homer -- his fourth of the postseason -- and starting pitcher Jose De Paula (2-0) scattered five hits and two walks while striking out five batters over six innings. Dustin Pease worked around a hit in the seventh frame, and Jeremy McBryde tossed two perfect innings to complete the shutout.
"We have come this far and we're absolutely in this to win the whole thing," Freiman added. "We're happy to be here and we're proud of the season we've had as a group, but we're looking to win it."
Stockton center fielder Michael Choice went 2-for-4 in the loss, raising his playoff batting average to .417.
The Storm, who clinched a spot in the playoffs by going 37-33 in the second half of the season, host Game 2 on Friday before the series moves to Stockton.