As soon as Jose Lobaton's bat connected with the baseball, the Lake Elsinore catcher was fairly certain he had done his job.
As the fly ball sailed into right field, Mike Baxter took a couple of steps back toward third base, waiting to see where it would land. It turned out Baxter didn't need to be so cautious. The ball landed beyond San Jose right fielder Michael Mooney, allowing Baxter to score the game-winning run as the Storm defeated the Giants, 7-6, in 10 innings in Game 1 of the California League Championship Series on Thursday at The Diamond.
"Everybody is happy. We're really happy. We need a win and want to bring home the championship," Lobaton said. "Going up to the plate, I was telling myself 'Whatever you do, just bring the run in' and I did. I just put my hands in the air and said, 'Yeah, I did it.'"
The Storm met Baxter for an impromptu celebration as he crossed home plate. The team then went up the first-base line to congratulate Lobaton, bouncing up and down in sync on the field as par of their celebration.
The win gave the Storm a 1-0 lead in the best-of-5 series. Game 2 is scheduled for Friday at The Diamond. The final three games of the series would be played in San Jose, beginning Saturday.
"That's the second time we've been down 6-0 in the playoffs," Storm manager Carlos Lezcano said, referring to their 14-9 Game 2 semifinals victory Lancaster. "The game is not over until the last out is made. We keep playing until we run out of outs. That's what we do here. To do that in the finals is outstanding."
The win in Game 1 goes against the formula for success that Lake Elsinore used to advance to the championship series. The Storm lost Game 1 to Inland Empire and did the same against Lancaster before coming back to win both series.
The Lake Elsinore bullpen had a huge role in this win. Richie Daigle struck out three in three scoreless innings. Ernesto Frieri struck out the side in the eighth, and R.J. Rodriguez (1-0) didn't allow a hit over the final two innings. The three relievers combined to limit San Jose to three hits and a walk in six innings. They struck out eight and walked one.
"The bullpen did a real good job keeping them at 6 and letting us fight back and get in it," Baxter said. "They did a great job of shutting them down."
Baxter went 3-for-4 with three doubles and three RBIs. Lobaton, Sean Kazmar and Kyle Blanks all had two hits apiece as part of a 12-hit attack. Kazmar also scored twice.
The Storm tied the game with three runs in the seventh. Lake Elsinore loaded the bases on two walks and a single against Taylor Wilding. Reliever Jason Waddell came on with one out and the bases loaded and got Seth Johnston to fly out before Baxter ripped a double down the left-field line that cleared the bases.
San Jose did most of its damage in the fifth, batting around during the five-run frame. The Giants got four straight singles against Storm starter Steve Garrison, including a two-run base hit by rehabbing outfielder Fred Lewis. Travis Denker, Mark Minicozzi and Pablo Sandoval also had RBI singles in the inning.
Lewis, who was sidelined with a sprained ankle Aug. 13, was 2-for-5 with two RBIs. Mark Minicozzi and Travis Denker each had two hits, an RBI and a run scored. Ben Copeland went 3-for-5 and scored once.
Lake Elsinore cut the lead in half in the bottom of the frame. The Storm loaded the bases on two singles sandwiched around a walk. Groundouts by David Freese and Craig Cooper each scored a run and Kyle Blanks followed with an RBI single.
San Jose starter Paul Oseguera was charged with three runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings. Wilding also gave up three runs over 1 2/3 innings. Osiris Matos (0-1) gave up the deciding run in the 10th for the loss.
"It's better to be 1-0 than 0-1. We're not overconfident," Lezcano said. "That's a good ballclub over there. We know it's going to be a tough series. This was just the first game."