The Diamond- Lake Elsinore, California
The story of game one against the Visalia Rawhide was once again Garrett Richards.
In a no-decision, Richards gave up six hits, surrendering two runs, both earned. The right-hander had two strikeouts, mainly challenging batters with his fastball. Of the outing, Richards said he felt great, adding, “Had an extra tick on my fastball tonight, felt really good, I still feel like I got more in the tank, which is important.” The last piece of his comment referencing his rehab assignment, which, “in [Richards’] mind, is done. “This is the last rehab start.”
After the two runs for the Rawhide in the top of the fourth, the Storm answered back quickly with a run in the fourth and a run in the fifth on a Tirso Ornelas single and Jeisson Rosario single, respectively. Ornelas was 2-for-2 on the day with two walks and the RBI. Of his performance, Ornelas was humble, saying, “Thank God [I] was able to help out the offense, and that the whole team was able to get on that offensive train… Thankfully [I] was able to get the right pitches and get those runs on the board.”
The real damage, however, was done in the eighth inning when a bases-loaded Tyler Benson single scored one run and led to another two runs being scored in the inning to put the Storm up by three runs heading into the ninth. Of his game-winning hit, Benson commented, “[I was] just kinda trying to put the ball in play, try to stay out of a double play. I know all of the pressure was on them because bases were loaded and he had to throw me a pitch to hit.”
The Storm was not intimated of their opponents, and the ace of the Rawhide’s pitching staff, Justin Vernia, didn’t faze them. When asked about the perfect game Vernia nearly threw in game one of Visalia’s series against the San Jose Giants, Benson told the media, “I had no idea, yeah, he was just another guy. We don’t think about that stuff.” The mindset going forward, according to Benson, is, “elevated, you want to take game two here, so all we have to do is take one of three games over there, so it’d make it a lot easier on us.”
The context of this game was not the only thing elevating the pressure of this game. Padres GM A.J. Preller was in attendance, presumably to watch Richards’ final rehab start, but stayed the entirety of the game, taking notes the entire time, meaning any player could make their mark in the brain of the Padres’ highest up. However, as Tirso Ornelas said, “[I] personally was not aware that he was in the stands, but it’s not something that they’re thinking of, because the mindset is to get that championship ring… Of course, it helps, and [we] want to show off, but it wasn’t something that [we] had on [our] minds.”
The Storm will play one last home game tomorrow, September 11th, before traveling to Visalia and playing game three and if necessary, four or five. Tomorrow’s projected starter is Reiss Knehr, who struck out eight in five innings in his last outing against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.