PHOENIX AZ - FEBRUARY 16: Michael Choice #71 of the Oakland Athletics warms up during a MLB spring training practice at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on February 16 2011 in Phoenix Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
We provide a preview of the 2011 California League Championship Series featuring the Stockton Ports and Lake Elsinore Storm.
The Advanced Single A California League opens its championship series Thursday evening as the Stockton Ports face the Lake Elsinore Storm in a best of five series to determine the best team in the California League. The series opens with two games at Lake Elsinore followed by as many as three games in Stockton. Tickets for the first two games are available at the Lake Elsinore website, while tickets for the final three games are available the Stockton website.
The Ports and Storm both enter the championship series coming off a 37-33 regular season. The Ports took on division winner Modesto in the best of three first round. Stockton advanced after winning the first game at home and game three on the road. They followed that up by taking three of four from the San Jose Giants. The Ports claimed a split in San Jose and then handily defeated the Giants in back-to-back games at Banner Island Ballpark.
The Storm took two straight from Inland Empire after losing the series opener on the road. The Storm followed that up by taking three of four from Rancho Cucamonga, including a 1-0 shutout in the series clincher.
The Ports are led by outfielder Michael Choice, the Oakland A's number one draft pick in 2010. Choice is hitting .406 in the postseason after a strong .285/.376/.542 regular season in which he led the league with 30 home runs. The top of the Ports order features Myrio Richard and Conner Crumbliss who combined for 51 stolen bases.
The Ports pitching staff is led by Robert Gilliam and Daniel Straily, but in reality they will be looking to outhit the Storm. The California League is a hitters league and the Ports pitching staff reflects this. Robert Gilliam leads the team in innings pitcher with 164 and wins with 12, but he also sports a 5.04. ERA. There best starting pitcher ERAs belong to A.J. Griffin (3.57) and Daniel Straily (3.87).
The Ports have put together solid pitching during the playoffs posting a 2.67 ERA with 45 strikeouts and 12 walks in 42 innings. However, if the season holds to form, it's safe to say fans can expect fireworks this week.