Claiming a Wild Victory
A full moon beamed in the night sky over Wolff Stadium, which could have explained some of the crazy developments late Saturday in the opener of a four-game Pacific Coast League series between the Missions and the visiting Reno Aces.
For instance, the Missions seemed to be on the verge of defeat not once, but twice, and still managed to pull out a 5-4 victory in 12 innings.
Trailing by a run leading into the bottom of the 12th, the Missions scored twice with no outs, once on an RBI single by Mauricio Dubon and again on a sacrifice fly by Nate Orf, to notch their sixth walk-off victory of the season.
"That was a wild one," Orf said. "I think our club did a lot of good things, though, to make it happen."
Orf applauded Missions reliever Jay Jackson for holding the Aces scoreless in both the 10th and the 11th innings.
"Jay Jackson coming in and doing what he just did, showed a lot of guts," Orf said. "That's a tough task, to start two innings with a runner on second and keep 'em out of there. So, that's a good win. They all are.
"But this one is a good one."
Leading by a run, the Aces seemingly had the game won in the bottom of the ninth when Lucas Erceg hit a fly ball to right for what should have been the last out of the game.
But Reno right fielder Travis Snider reached out and gloved it and then, inexplicably, dropped it for an error to allow Troy Stokes, Jr., to come around from second and score to make it 3-3.
"Right field is pretty hard to play here," Orf said. "The wind's typically coming in, and that makes the balls cut and move different than normal. It's a tough play. All I can think is, that play can happen to anybody.
"I feel bad for that guy. That can happen to anybody. That's baseball. You know, who knows, maybe the guy's eyes bounced a little. Or, whatever. But that being said, I think that's what happens to (help) clubs that are winning.
"Or, it happens for clubs that are winning. It's just one of those things. You get that run in right there, and it's like, 'Here we go. We're going to win tonight.' "
Both squads squandered chances to score in the 10th and 11th, which is surprising, because for the second year in a row, rules in the minor leagues allow for teams in extra innings to start with a runner at second base.
But in the 12th, the game stared to break in favor of the Aces. With Abraham Almonte starting the inning as the runner at second, he came around to score easily and make it 4-3 when Domingo Leyba doubled off Missions reliever Alex Wilson.
From there, Wilson closed without another run scoring, aided on the third out by a nice play from Missions second baseman Keston Hiura.
In the bottom of the 12th, with Troy Stokes, Jr. at second to start the inning, Jake Hager ignited the winning rally against Reno reliever Ryan Atkinson by roping a single to right. Stokes reached third but was held up there and didn't try to score.
At that point, the Missions had runners at first and third, with Dubon coming to bat.
That was a good thing for the home team, as the 25-year-old from Honduras has been making solid contact for weeks now. He did it again, smashing a ball in the hole on the left side.
Leyba, playing shortstop, got a glove on it. But it wasn't enough, as it skittered away for a single, allowing Stokes to score and Hager to take third.
With the scored tied and nobody out, and with the winning run 90 feet away, the Aces were forced to gamble. They went with a five-infielder alignment to keep a ground ball from beating them.
Orf had other ideas, pulling a fly ball into left field to score Hager with the winner. In reaction, the Missions ran on the field and doused Orf with an ice bucket of water.
"They find ways," Missions manager Rick Sweet said. "I thought the couple innings where we had chances and didn't score was really surprising. But as long as we kept it close. You know, Hager's (single) was a big base hit for me, because, when we came in after that inning (after the top of the 12th), I said, 'Enough of that small-ball crap. Let's start swinging the bats. He lays out a rope and it's like, OK, let's go."
American Southern Division - San Antonio 43-26, Round Rock 41-27, New Orleans 38-31, Oklahoma City 28-39.
Pacific Northern Division - Sacramento 36-32, Fresno 33-35, Tacoma 32-37, Reno 29-39.
Reno at San Antonio, Sunday at 2 p.m., Monday and Tuesday, both at 7:05 p.m.
Aaron Wilkerson (5-1, 1.59) for the Missions vs. Ricky Nolasco (0-0, 4.91) for the Aces.
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