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Lake Elsinore wins Cal League crown

Freiman, Storm power past host Ports in Game 4 of the Finals
September 19, 2011
It took a decade, but Lake Elsinore once again rules the California League.

Nate Freiman homered twice and the Class A Advanced Storm scored five fourth-inning runs in their 10-3 victory over the host Stockton Ports to take Game 4 of the best-of-5 Finals.

"It's been fun, but to be honest, I have hit home runs before. I have never won a championship," Freiman said. "There's no feeling like this in baseball. To be with this group, my brothers all year -- we're really a close group, so for the season to end this way is special."

Lake Elsinore, which gained entry to the postseason as a South Division Wild Card following a 69-71 regular season, secured its first league championship since the 2001 Finals were canceled in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. That year, the Storm and the San Jose Giants were declared co-champs. The franchise hadn't won the title outright since 1996.

The Storm, who won eight of its past 10 playoff games, also became the second Padres affiliate to win its league this season. The San Antonio Missions swept their way to a Texas League championship on Friday.

Thanks to a 4-for-4, three-RBI night from Freiman, the club won Game 1, then took Game 2 before the Ports erupted for 15 runs to grab Game 3.

"The consensus in the locker room was that we played two great games. We gave them that Game 3, but that we were really confident coming into Game 4," Freiman said.

The lineup loaded the bases against Ports starter Daniel Straily with no outs in the fourth: Six of the first seven batters reached safely. Jonathan Galvez's double and Jake Blackwood's single each plated two runs with one swing of the bat.

"That inning was the real turning point in the game," said Freiman, who singled and scored in the frame. "At the time, you never know which run is the one. ... Stockton, they have been one of best teams in league. They're a team that can put up big runs. We were grinding to get every out. No one on the field or in the dugout relaxed at any time."

Straily (0-1) exited having recorded one out in the fourth. He was charged with all five runs on six hits. He also walked one and struck out two.

Tommy Medica, who was plunked by a Straily pitch during the fourth-inning rally, and Frieman struck back-to-back home runs toward left field off of reliever Anthony Huttenlocker in the fifth.

"I just got a good pitch, hit a curveball," Freiman said.

Medica also singled in a run in the seventh, while Freiman went deep again in the ninth for the Storm's 10th and final run.

Freiman, an eighth-round draftee in 2009, scored three times and went 3-for-5 to raise his postseason batting average to .386. He struck longballs and collected 12 RBIs in 11 playoff games.

Five different Storm batters collected two RBIs apiece.

The Ports loaded the bases in the first before Storm starter Nick Schmidt struck out three straight betters.

Schmidt, the Padres' first-round draftee in 2007, allowed Leonardo Gil's solo shot to start the third and a pair of runs in the fifth, including Michael Choice's RBI single.

Choice, the No. 2 A's prospect, went 2-for-4 at the plate to increase his postseason batting average to .426.

Schmidt (2-0) allowed three runs on six hits over six innings. He walked three and struck out seven.

Matt Lollis and Jason Ray, a former Ports pitcher, ended the game with three perfect innings of relief.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to