LANCASTER, CA - With a one-run lead, the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth on Friday night, manager Rodney Linares summoned Jorge De Leon from the JetHawks bullpen to face Storm cleanup hitter Tommy Medica.
On numerous occasions in the regular season the Storm erased late JetHawks leads and Medica was often the centerpiece of those comebacks. De Leon, who finished the season with 7.70 ERA, had struggled late in games himself. But in the playoffs, the slate is wiped clean.
De Leon induced a game-ending foul out to leave the bases loaded and the JetHawks celebrated a 3-2 victory over the Lake Elsinore Storm to take the series 2-1 at The Hangar and advance to the South Division Championship Series.
After Patrick Urckfitz retired the first batter of the ninth, Linares went to the bullpen to bring in Andrew Robinson. The right-hander struggled to find the zone, walking two and hitting a batter to load the bases with two out. De Leon, the JetHawks' sixth pitcher of the night was able to bail him out.
The Storm took a 1-0 lead in the first inning against David Martinez (1-0). B.J. Guinn led off with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a Robert Kral fly ball to centerfield. The Storm scored first in all three series games.
Rafael Valenzuela tied the game with a solo home run, his first of the postseason, against Burch Smith (0-1) in the third inning. Smith, who had posted a 0.64 ERA in three starts against Lancaster in the regular season, gave up a pair of two out hits and a walk in the fifth inning to load the bases for Domingo Santana. He hit Santana to bring in the go-ahead run.
Martinez exited the game in the sixth inning. He allowed one run on six hits with two strikeouts and a walk. Smith struck out seven over five innings and allowed two runs on five hits.
Lancaster picked up a big insurance run in the seventh thanks to another two out rally. Andrew Aplin tripled over the head of centerfielder Rico Noel and came in to score on a Santana single off reliever Ryan Quigley to go up, 3-1.
The Storm got the run back in the eighth inning. Carlos Quevedo allowed a hit and walked a batter before he was replaced by Urckfitz. The left-hander allowed an RBI-hit to Medica to the put Lake Elsinore back within a run.
That was as close as they would get. JetHawks pitching worked out of numerous jams. Lake Elsinore went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base. They had at least two runners on base in every inning from the fifth inning on.
The JetHawks will head to Adelanto to face the High Desert Mavericks in Game 1 of the South Division Championship Series on Saturday night at 7:05 pm. Blair Walters will start the first game of the best-of-five series against Roenis Elias.
Lancaster will return to The Hangar for Game 3 on Monday and Game 4 (if necessary) on Tuesday. Tickets to all potential home playoff games are on sale now. For more information please contact the JetHawks box office at (661) 726-5400.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.