Storm sweep to Cal League crown
Storm 3, Grizzlies 2
The winds started howling during the final week of the regular season, and only after claiming their first title in 11 years, did the Storm finally die down.
Buoyed by a strong pitching performance from Victor Lizarraga and a knack for the clutch hit, Single-A Lake Elsinore held off Fresno, 3-2, to sweep to its first California League championship since 2011.
The Storm ran the table in the playoffs, going 4-0 after winning five consecutive games to close out the regular season.
Coming off an impressive performance in the opening game, top Padres prospect Jackson Merrill added two more hits and Jakob Marsee drove in a pair of runs, including a two-out RBI single in the seventh that proved to be the winning tally. Full story »
Storm 13, Grizzlies 2
Jackson Merrill wants the ring, make no mistake about it.
The top-ranked Padres prospect was the driving force behind an unrelenting Single-A Lake Elsinore offense, going 4-for-5 with three doubles and four RBIs in the Storm’s win over Fresno in Game 1 of the best-of-3 Finals.
Merrill is hitting .692 (9-for-13) through his first three postseason games.
Jakob Marsee, Marcos Castanon and Griffin Doersching all contributed two-RBI efforts. Marsee and Castanon both went yard, with the former crossing the plate three times. Doersching doubled, singled and scored twice.
Fernando Sanchez took the ball for Lake Elsinore in the series opener, allowing one run on five hits and a walk while striking out seven over 4 1/3 innings. Will Geerdes picked up the win after giving up a run on five hits while fanning three over the next 3 2/3 frames. José Quijada closed out the victory with two scoreless innings.
AJ Lewis finished a triple shy of the cycle for the Grizzlies. Box score »
Grizzlies 7, Giants 3
Fresno had an opportunity last year to win a championship for the first time since 2015 and didn't succeed. Colorado's Single-A affiliate will get another chance to be the last team standing in the California League Finals this year.
Adael Amador slugged a go-ahead homer in the fifth inning and Fresno never looked back in a series-clinching 7-3 win over San Jose at Chukchansi Park. The Grizzlies gained a measure of revenge against the Giants, who swept them in last year's Low-A West Finals.
After an early 3-0 lead vanished in the fifth, Fresno answered back immediately and emphatically in the bottom half of the frame. Amador led off with a solo homer that kick-started a four-run outburst. The No. 3 Rockies prospect went deep 15 times for the Grizzlies during the regular season, but only once -- in the season finale on Sept. 11 -- in his previous 25 games.
Juan Guerrero added to the lead with a two-RBI single while No. 7 Rockies prospect Sterlin Thompson tripled him home for the final score of the game. Sixth-ranked Benny Montgomery tripled, singled and scored twice, and No. 12 Yanquiel Fernandez chipped in an RBI single for the Grizzlies' early 3-0 edge. Box score »
Storm 10, 66ers 8
Inland Empire gave Lake Elsinore all it could handle, but in the end, a seven-run deficit was too much to overcome.
Jackson Merrill drove in two runs and finished with three hits and a walk to help the Storm sweep its best-of-3 semifinal series with the 66ers at The Diamond. Lake Elsinore, which lost in the Finals in 2019, will attempt to win its first title since 2011.
The Storm appeared on its way to an easy victory after erupting for five runs in the seventh inning. Padres No. 26 prospect Nerwilian Cedeno provided the big blow, dropping a single into right field that scored three runs. The Storm tacked on one final run in the frame to turn a 4-2 lead into a 9-2 bulge.
Inland Empire, however, was not ready to cede the game. The 66ers answered with six runs in the eighth on three bases-loaded walks and a triple by Angels No. 19 prospect Arol Vera, who collected three hits and four RBIs.
Merrill, the top-ranked Padres prospect, provided some insurance with an RBI single in the eighth after doubling home a run in the fifth. Box score »
Ain't no celebration like a @Storm_Baseball clincher celly!@Padres prospects are heading to the California League championship: https://t.co/k8mAsgdBdg pic.twitter.com/LQhGqmDO9s— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) September 16, 2022
Storm 9, 66ers 2
The final score doesn't quite tell the story of how close Game 1 of the semifinals between Lake Elsinore and Inland Empire was at San Manuel Stadium, but the Storm's victory put the San Diego affiliate a win away from the Championship Series all the same.
Led by power stroke of Griffin Doersching, who opened the scoring with a two-run jack to left-center field with two outs in the second inning and added what appeared to be an insurance run with a solo homer to nearly the same spot to lead off the ninth, Lake Elsinore sent 10 batters to the plate and scored six runs in the final frame to pull away late.
Doersching finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs scored. Top-ranked Padres prospect Jackson Merrill (No. 87 overall) collected a pair of knocks, a walk, one RBI, a run and two stolen bases. Nathan Martorella, the club's 29th-ranked prospect, drove in a pair of runs with a single in the ninth.
On the hill, San Diego's seventh-ranked prospect Victor Lizarraga allowed two runs on three hits and a pair of walks while striking out nine over 5 2/3 frames for Lake Elsinore. Will Geerdes nailed down the save with 3 1/3 hitless innings, walking two and striking out a pair.
David Calabrese provided the offense for Inland Empire with a two-run dinger in the fourth. Box score »
Grizzlies 12, Giants 3
In a game with 12 runs on 13 hits for Fresno, not a single knock left the park. Instead a balanced attack led by a group of the Rockies' top prospects carried the Grizzlies to a convincing Game 1 victory over San Jose in Game 1 of the best-of-3 semifinals at Excite Ballpark.
Seven Grizzlies collected at least one hit and all nine starters reached base at least once. Colorado's ninth-ranked prospect Jordan Beck finished with a team-best three hits, three RBIs and two runs scored. Seventh-ranked Sterlin Thompson and No. 12 Yanquiel Fernandez collected a pair of hits and RBIs apiece, with Fernandez recording a triple. Sixth-ranked Benny Montgomery singled, drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, walked and scored twice. Catcher Braxton Fulford also set a team single-game record with two triples while driving in three runs.
Yorlis Rodriguez put San Jose on the board with a solo shot to lead off the third. It opened a three-run frame for the Giants that was capped by an RBI single from San Francisco's 19th-ranked prospect Adrian Sugastey. Box score »
T1 | Here is that @jbbeck27 RBI single! 🐻⚾️🔥💍 #RaisetheBear pic.twitter.com/FGmQbmYaj3— Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) September 14, 2022
How they got there
It was déjà vu all over again for Fresno as the first-half North Division champs repeated by clinching the second-half crown with a 12-6 win over San Jose at Excite Ballpark.
Sixth-ranked Rockies prospect Benny Montgomery led the charge with a career-high five-RBI performance -- which included his sixth dinger for the Grizzlies. Catcher Braxton Fulford also had his power on display as he finished with a pair of homers, a double, four RBIs and four runs scored for Fresno. The Grizzlies have won 17 of their last 19 contests.
The club improved to 80-47 on the season and 40-22 in the second half to secure the best regular-season mark in the league. The Grizzlies paced the circuit this year in hits (1,240), doubles (272) and homers (161).
Inland Empire 66ers
It was a win-and-in situation for Single-A Inland Empire, and the 66ers punched their ticket to the postseason with a 4-3 victory over Visalia in 10 innings at Valley Strong Ballpark. The win, combined with a 10-6 loss by Lake Elsinore. clinched the second-half division crown for the 66ers.
Angels' eighth-ranked prospect Adrian Placencia led the way offensively for the 66ers with a two-hit effort that included a two-run homer to open the scoring in the first inning. Right-hander Jorge Marcheco was solid on the hill, allowing three runs on three hits without issuing a walk and fanning seven over five frames. Then Inland Empire's bullpen took over as Roman Phansalkar, Dayan Reinoso and Fernando Guanare combined to whiff six over five scoreless frames.
San Jose Giants
San Jose may have lost 12-6 to the reigning North Division champ Fresno, but the Giants still punched their ticket to the postseason after a 4-3 loss by Modesto to Stockton in 10 innings. Since Fresno won both halves, San Jose earned a trip to the playoffs with the next best divisional record.
San Jose produced a 32-30 mark in the second half of the season. San Francisco's fourth-ranked prospect Grant McCray, recently promoted to High-A Eugene, still stands second on the circuit with 92 runs, fifth with 127 hits and 10th with a .291 average and 69 RBIs.
Paced by Seth Lonsway's 119 strikeouts (fourth-best in the league) and Nick Sinacola, who stands second with a .386 ERA among qualified hurlers, the Giants led the Cal League with a 4.08 ERA this season.
For the second year in a row, Single-A Fresno is playoff bound. After dropping five in a row to second-place San Jose, the Rockies' affiliate took control of their own destiny with consecutive wins over Modesto to secure the first-half North Division title with a 4-2 win at Chukchansi Park. Grizzlies starter Jarrod Cande allowed two runs over five innings and the Fresno bullpen tossed four scoreless frames behind him to secure the victory.
The well-rounded Grizzlies showed out on both sides of the ball in the clincher as they’ve done all year. They lead the California League in a plethora of offensive categories, including OPS (.804), slugging (.445) and homers (78), and are second to San Jose in team ERA (4.09) and WHIP (1.39) while surrendering the third-fewest walks of any team. Gameday box score
Lake Elsinore Storm
The Storm will head to the playoffs after doubling up Rancho Cucamonga, 14-7. Lake Elsinore clinched its second South Division title in the past three seasons, aiming for its first Cal League title since 2011.
The Padres' Single-A affiliate has been tough to keep off the bases, as apparent by an on-base percentage (.363) that ranks second in the league. Once they're on, they're off as well. The Storm's 135 stolen bases stands second among the 120 full-season Minor League affiliates. On the pitching side, Lake Elsinore's 4.52 ERA ranks third despite the fact that the league's offenses average nearly six runs per game. Gameday box score