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Employing Aggressive Base Running

May 19, 2019 - Pacific Coast League (PCL) - San Antonio Missions News Release

The Missions have made a name for themselves as a team that will win with pitching, clutch hitting and dramatic comebacks.

Maybe it's time to start talking about aggressive base running, as well.

"I have to think base running was a big key (tonight)," Missions manager Rick Sweet said after his team rallied from an early three-run deficit for a 6-4 victory over the Memphis Redbirds.

A crowd of 5,178 at Wolff Stadium watched as the Missions won their fourth straight, including three in a row off Memphis in the five-game, home series.

In claiming their seventh victory in nine outings, Sweet's club did its usual thing with gritty relief pitching, particularly by Tristan Archer, who threw three perfect innings while striking out four in the middle of the game.

Meanwhile, as bullpen aces Archer, Miguel Sanchez, Deolis Guerra and Donnie Hart combined to pitch six scoreless frames, the Missions also emerged with a three-run fifth and a two-run eighth to take charge.

And they did it with just enough muscle at the plate to frustrate the Redbirds once again, particularly Troy Stokes, Jr., who drove in two runs with a couple of hits, including a majestic, 428-foot homer to left field.

But in both the fifth and the eighth, the Missions showed off flashes of base-running daring that brought the fans out of their seats.

Down by two with two out in the fifth, Stokes hit a liner through the right side, giving Mauricio Dubon the opportunity to show off his speed in coming around from second to score ahead of a throw from right fielder Adolis Garcia.

But as Garcia's throw came in, it bounced past catcher Joe Hudson, giving veteran Tyler Saladino an opening to make perhaps the most important play of the game.

Running from first base on Stokes' hit, Saladino had reached third when the ball got behind the Memphis catcher. As soon as it happened, Saladino jetted for home and slid head first ahead of the tag.

Tie ball game.

"That is hustle, heads-up, aggressive baseball, and it was our most veteran guy in Saladino," Sweet said. "So, stuff like that ... that is a huge play. That sets the tone for every guy on our team, when a guy like that scores from first base on a single to right field."

The Missions added another electric play, courtesy of Cory Spangenberg, in the eighth.

After Stokes led off the inning with a blast to left field for the go-ahead run, Spangenberg stepped up next and stroked a double down the left field line.

At that point, Jake Hager smashed a liner to third baseman Jose Urias for the first out. But in an effort to complete a double play, Urias fired a throw which glanced off Spangenberg and careened into the outfield.

Spangenberg turned on the speed, rounding third without hesitation and making it home ahead of the throw for the game's final run.

"I just thought the base running was the big key," Sweet said. "Obviously, the base hits stand out, and they were great, too. But I think we set the tone with some aggressive base running.

"Stokes stole third with two out (in the fifth). Just stuff like that. You know, you kind of smile. You set the tone of how you're going to play.

"It's not a knock on them, because they played fine, too. But you just keep pushing, keep attacking."

The Missions have fallen behind the Redbirds twice in three games this week and have come back to win both times.

They did it in the opener on Thursday night with a dramatic, two-out double by Saladino in the bottom of the ninth that scored two runs in a 4-3 victory.

"We have a pretty good group of guys," Stokes said. "As long as the pitchers keep us in the ball games, our offense, with our lineup, we're always in the game. So, we know matter who it is, someone is always going to come through."

PCL standings

American Southern Division - Round Rock 25-16, San Antonio 25-17, New Orleans 22-20, Oklahoma City 14-26.

American Northern Division - Iowa 25-17, Memphis 21-21, Omaha 19-23, Nashville 15-26

Sunday's matchup

2:05 p.m., at Wolff Stadium -- Aaron Wilkerson (1-0, 0.87) for San Antonio vs. Jake Woodford (2-0, 2.04) for Memphis.

Petricka's streak

Reliever Jake Petricka, a 30-year-old veteran, has emerged recently as one of the Missions' bullpen aces. He has not allowed an earned run in five straight appearances.

Also, he has recorded saves in his last two outings, including Friday night when he worked a tense ninth inning of a 5-3 victory over Memphis.

"I expected him to come in and do exactly what he did," Missions manager Rick Sweet said. "He's a guy that's got big-league experience. He's got good stuff and he knows how to pitch."

Petricka, from Northfield, Minn., has pitched in the majors in each of the past eight seasons, including in six games in April for the parent-club Brewers.

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Pacific Coast League Stories from May 19, 2019

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