LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. - The dramatic finishes this year at The Diamond accurately sum up what the season has been like for the Storm this season in front of their home crowd. The Storm welcomed the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes to Lake Elsinore for a three-game series that began with the team's fourth walk-off win of the early season.
Friday night's pitching matchup was one any baseball fan could appreciate, with the Quakes sending Walker Buehler, who was promoted to Double-A on Saturday, to the mound and the Storm giving southpaw Joey Lucchesi to the bump.
A pitcher's duel it was. Both teams broke into the run column early before trading zeros back and forth until the last frame of the game.
In his first game with the Storm, Carlos Belen broke the scoreless game with an RBI single to score first baseman Ty France. Belen would finish the game 1-for-1 with three walks to go with his RBI.
The Quakes would get the run back the following frame to tie the game at 1-1, but that was all they could get to Lucchesi for, as the lefty continued his dominant run in 2017.
Lucchesi would finish the game throwing seven innings and striking out a career-high nine hitters while allowing just the lone run on three hits and a walk.
T.J. Weir came on in relief on Lucchesi, managing to keep the Quakes out of the run column in his perfect inning of work, while striking out a pair of Quakes.
Colby Blueberg, who's been consistently reliable this year, threw the ninth inning, keeping the Quakes off the board while notching two strikeouts.
With one out in the bottom on the ninth, Javier Guerra drove the ball into the deep gap in right-center field for a double and put the Storm in a position to win the game.
Ruddy Giron then reached on an error by the Quakes shortstop, which advanced Guerra to third base and Giron to second. Belen was then intentionally walked without any pitches being thrown, due to the new rule change. With the bases full and one out, the Quakes had a force out at any base.
Taylor Kohlwey came through for the Storm, hitting a fly ball deep enough to right field that would draw a close play at the plate with Guerra tagging up. Guerra scored the winning run on a headfirst slide into home and the Storm took the first game of the series, 2-1.
The second game showed just as much excitement and one particularly impressive pitching performance from Storm right-hander Cal Quantrill.
The Quakes lineup on Saturday boasted two rehabbing Major Leaguers in Joc Pederson and Logan Forsythe, but that didn't faze the very cool, calm and collected Quantrill.
Through the first two frames, Quantrill had already notched five strikeouts. Then, in the bottom of the second, Belen was back to doing his thing, driving in Giron with an RBI double to right-center field.
The Quakes would score a run in the fourth and add another in the fifth to take the lead, but the damage could've been much worse. Through five innings, Quantrill had already surpassed his previous career-high in strikeouts, previously set at eight. He would finish the night with 12 strikeouts through six innings, allowing two runs on a walk and seven hits. Quantrill struck out Forsythe three times while getting Pederson swinging once.
With two outs in the sixth and Michael Gettys at third base, Guerra placed a perfect bunt towards the left side of the infield to score Gettys and get on base, tying the game at 2-2.
Late-inning heroics once again would guide the Storm to a win. A one-out triple off the bat of Ty France would score Gettys and Austin Allen, who both reached via base hits. Guerra then hit a fly ball to center which France attempted to tag and score on, but a close play at the plate would be called in favor of the Quakes.
Jarred Cosart, in a rehab stint with the Storm, would begin the ninth inning on the mound, but after allowing the first two batters of the inning to reach, Trevor Frank was called upon in relief.
He would allow a single to score a run, making it 4-3 Storm with Quakes runners on first and second and still none out. Frank would then pick up the first out of the inning with a strikeout, before getting the next batter to fly out to right field, but not deep enough to allow the runner at second base to tag up. Giron would then reach into the stands along the third base line to snag a pop up and close out the Storm victory, 4-3, giving the Storm the series win.
What's a Storm home series without an extra inning game? The fans were treated to free baseball on Wednesday night as the Storm and the Quakes took a 6-6 ballgame into extras.
The bats were effective early for the home team, who plated four runs in the first two innings before the Quakes would rally back and eventually take a brief lead in the sixth inning.
A late Storm rally would give the Storm the 6-5 lead heading into the ninth. A double off the bat of Ruddy Giron scored France and Miguel Del Castillo immediately followed up with a two-out double to score Giron.
With two outs and the tying run on second base in the ninth inning, though, a swing and a miss on a wild pitch that would've been the out to end the game skipped off the catcher and to the backstop. Del Castillo attempted to throw the runner out at first, but the plate was left uncovered and the runner from second would go 180-feet to tie the game at 6-6.
It would just take two extra innings for the Storm to win the game and sweep. Chris Baker led off the inning with a groundball that the second baseman ranged to his left to field before doing a 180 spin and throwing the ball away, allowing Baker to reach second.
With one out and Baker at second, Edwin Moreno was intentionally walked. Michael Gettys then drew a full count walk to load the bases and with two outs, France lined a ball between first and second to send the Storm home winners and seal the sweep, closing the game to just one game behind first place.
Lake Elsinore hits the road for a four-game series at Modesto before hosting Stockton and Modesto in a seven-game home stand beginning May 9.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.