By Pete Marshall
LAKE ELSINORE – Winning the California League South Division first-half title might be too daunting a task for the 66ers, but they are nonetheless picking a good time to put together back-to-back solid road performances, since they are in Game 4 of a stretch in which they play 22 of 28 on the road.
On Thursday, the Sixers built a six-run lead in the fifth inning and took an 8-5 win over Lake Elsinore before 2,772 at The Diamond.
The Sixers (25-35), a league-worst 6-18 on the road entering the game, won on the road for the second straight game and earned a split of the four-game series with the first-place Storm (29-31). The win also moved the Sixers into a fourth-place tie with the Quakes, who were swept in a doubleheader at Lancaster by 9-7 and 14-1 scores.
Sixers starter Josh Wall (4-3) stuck out a season-high seven batters, but once again failed to make it through the sixth inning. In 11 starts this season, Wall has gone at least five innings six times but has never made it through six. Wall’s previous high in strikeouts was five this season.
Leading 6-1 in the sixth, Wall allowed a leadoff single to Eric Sogard and a one-out walk to Mitch Canham before he was replaced by Jordan Pratt.
Pratt allowed a wild pitch and with two outs, he gave up a walk, a two-run double to Jesus Lopez and after another wild pitch an RBI single by Aeden McQueary to cut Lake Elsinore’s deficit to 6-5.
In the seventh, the Sixers got an insurance run with two outs. Austin Gallagher hit a sinking line drive to center that skipped past center fielder Cedric Hunter and rolled all the way to the wall. Gallagher raced all the way home and his slide barely beat the throw home. Gallagher was awarded an inside the park home run, his first home run in 55 at bats with the Sixers this season.
The Sixers built an early lead, due in large part to Carlos Santana.
In the first, Santana homered over the ad monster in right field, tying for team-high honors with six.
Christian Lara had an RBI groundout and Trayvon Robinson added an RBI single in the second for a 3-0 Sixers lead.
In the third, Santana was hit by a pitch and scored on Drew Locke’s RBI double. Locke eventually scored on a Tommy Giles sacrifice fly and the Sixers led 5-0. Giles added an RBI double in the top of the fifth for a 6-0 Sixers lead.
Wall pitched out of trouble in the bottom of the fifth, allowing only one run out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation.
The late innings provided some arguments from the Storm with umpires Daniel Oliver and Brian Hertzog.
In the seventh, the Storm attempted a double steal with two outs and was successful, but batter Rayner Contreras was called out at the plate for interfering with catcher Esteban Lopez.
Manager Carlos Lezcano argued, to no avail. But in the bottom of the eighth, hitting coach Shane Spencer was ejected before he could get out to his first-base coach’s box.
In the top of the ninth, Lezcano was ejected for arguing after another controversial play.
Justin Fuller hit a triple to right-center. Fuller was awarded home plate after the umpires ruled the overthrow went out of bounds.
Lezcano furiously argued, pointing to the spot near the dugout but not out of bounds, where he said the ball went. After he was ejected, he kicked dirt onto home plate.
That left pitching coach Wally Whitehurst to manage the team and coach third base in the bottom of the ninth. Paul Koss earned his second save with a perfect ninth for the Sixers.