Lake Elsinore, Inland Empire come close to blows

Call it an old fashioned brawl. When the top team in the division is playing number two, it is inevitable that emotions will run high as they did when Marcus Nettles was hit by a pitch. With the 5-3 win on Wednesday, Lake Elsinore is just a half game back of Inland Empire. The Storm have won the first two games of the series and a win in the finale would not only complete the sweep, but put them into first place.

It was just the second inning when Kervin Jacobo hit a two run blast, his sixth of the season, over the 342 sign in right-center. Jacobo has RBI's in three straight games and has hit four of his homers, to go with 12 RBI's, over the last seven days.

One pitch later, Marcus Nettles was struck with a pitch by Inland Empire starter Bobby Livingston. Nettles took his bat and tossed it angrily towards the home dugout in disgust and began his walk to first with an evil glare in his eye. Halfway there, Nettles turned inward towards Livingston and the benches quickly cleared. No punches were thrown, but the point was made for each team.

Inland Empire was making it clear that they would not give up without a fight and Lake Elsinore parlayed that they would not back down from that fight.

"Both clubs went out there, nothing happened and we played the game of baseball," Storm Manager Rick Renteria said. "It's part of the game."

In the top half of the third the 66ers got one back on a Rene Rivera home run. It was the fifth home run of the season given up by Storm starter Jon Huber.

The Storm broke it open in the fifth. Luke Carlin led off with a double down the left field line and after being sacrificed over to third, Kennard Jones hit a sharp grounder with the infield in. The shortstop, Juan Gonzalez, could not secure the ball and everyone was safe and a run was in. Gonzalez was not charged with an error as the speedy Jones would have made it tough had he fielded it cleanly.

Luis Cruz followed with a single, his third hit of the night. Cruz has hit safely in ten straight and has six three-hit games on the year. He is 19-for-46 through the streak and has raised his average from .288 to .320.

The deciding blow came off the bat of Paul McAnulty. McAnulty took a 2-1 fastball and lined a shot into left-center that drove in both Jones and Cruz to put the Storm up 5-1.

"It's a battle out there," McAnulty said. "It was a fastball away. He pitched me away a lot of times and I was looking for a fastball away, something I could get up in the air to get that guy (Jones) home from third base. That was my main job. It just so happens the ball fell."

Huber (5-2) went into the seventh inning with his comfortable 5-1 lead before surrendering a walk and a single to open the inning. Wilmer Villatoro came on and proceeded to walk the first batter he faced to load the bases and then walked in a run.

"It's the same old thing, you put him back on the horse," Renteria said of putting Villatoro in after he surrendered four runs his last time out without securing an out. "They have to experience them and hopefully gain from their past and use it to their advantage. Hopefully be a little bit calmer and a little bit focused and do what they have to do. He is still a young man. I was hoping for better. We do for all of our kids." Kevin Beavers was called upon to control the no out, bases loaded mess. Beavers surrendered a sac fly to the first batter and then closed the door.

In total, three runs were charged to Huber on the night. He allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out seven. Dale Thayer closed the game out for his sixth save of the season.

Renteria was pleased with his team's performance in a high stakes game and was more than willing to applaud the pitching of Huber and the defense in Wednesday's win.

He did, however, downplay the significance of beating Inland Empire specifically.

"What it is, I think, is (the team) realizes that every game is important," Renteria said. "Hopefully, they don't make more or less of it. They are following a particular routine and it makes it easier."

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