The Missions clinched their third consecutive playoff appearance Tuesday night, taking their second straight extra-inning victory in Corpus Christi 3-2 in 11 innings. Midland's loss to Frisco earlier in the evening had already guaranteed the Missions the first half title in the Texas League South, but San Antonio finished off the half in style, extending their win streak to four games.
Mitch Canham led off the top of the 11th inning with a blast over the right field wall and into the bullpen on an 0-2 delivery from Hooks reliever T.J. Burton. It was just Canham's second home run of the year, but proved to be the difference in the difference in the game.
"Just a hanging splitty," said a beer-soaked Canham after the game. "I was just trying to put in in play. Sometimes good things like that happen."
San Antonio made up a five game deficit on the RockHounds with just 14 games to play. The Missions took three out of four in a crucial series at Midland last week to take a one-game lead heading into this series, marking the first day San Antonio held sole possesion of first place all season. The Missions won 12 of their final 15 games to lock up a postseason birth.
"That's the character of this club," said Canham. "Everyone gets along, it's like a family. It makes it a lot easier to come to the ballpark everyday and get it done."
Tuesday's game marked the second consecutive extra-inning affair between the two teams, and the third this season. San Antonio improved to a perfect 4-0 in extra-inning contests, including a 3-0 mark against Corpus Christi, with all three wins coming on the road.
Rolando Valdez (1-0) earned his first victory of the year, tossing a pair of scorless innings. The Missions bullpen combined for 5.1 innings of hitless relief to close out the game. Burton (0-2) took the loss.
"The bullpen was fantastic tonight," said Kennedy. "And to win it on a homer, that was amazing."
Kennedy was happy but realistic in his perspective of the situation. "We've achieved one goal," said Kennedy. "Our next goal is to win this half and move forward in the playoffs."
The Missions struck first, as Lance Zawadzki's two-out double plated Eric Sogard in the top of the first. It marked the 36th time in the Missions first 70 games that they plated a run in the opening frame.
Corpus Christi fought back with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to take a 2-1 lead. Wladimir Sutil followed John Florentino's one-out triple with a double to left to tie the game in the fourth. One inning later, Collin DeLome led off with another triple and scored on Drew Meyer's sacrifice fly to Luis Durango at the warning track in left. It marked the first time all season that an opponent has tripled twice against the Missions in a game this season.
Missions starter Ernesto Frieri, who has been the most consistent member of the Missions rotation this season, was not at his sharpest. He did, however, limit the damage, stranding seven Corpus Christi runners through the first five frames. He finished 5.2 innings yielding the pair of runs on seven hits, with two walks and six strikeouts. The six whiffs match a season-high for the Missions righty.
In the bottom of the sixth, Hooks manager Luis Pujols pinch-hit Jimmy Van Ostrand for his starting pitcher Wilton Lopez with Waldimir Sutil at second base and one out. Lopez had thrown only 66 pitches, notching seven strikeouts while allowing just one run on three hits through six masterful innings. Van Ostrand struck out in his stead, and Scott Rice, who came on to relieve Ernesto Frieri, induced an inning-ending groundout from Collin DeLome on the first pitch to end the threat.
In the top of the eighth, Cedric Hunter led off with a single to center, and Eric Sogard followed with a flair single to left with Hunter on the move, sending him to third with nobody out. Craig Cooper worked the count full against McKeller, and took a called third strike with Sogard in motion. Catcher Jason Castro's throw sailed into the baseline and past second baseman Drew Meyer into center field, allowing Hunter to trot home from third with the game-tying run.
Mitch Canham led off the top of the ninth with a ringing double over the head of center fielder Nick Moresi. After Seth Johnston moved Canham to third on a soft ground ball to short, Michael Collins pinch-hit for Luis Durango. Collins was called out on a check swing for strike three by home plate umpire Mike Lusky, who refused help from first base ump Brett Robson. Missions hitting coach Orv Franchuk argued the call from the dugout and was ejected by Lusky. Pinch-hitter Jesus Lopez popped to right-fielder Drew Locke on the first pitch to end the Missions' threat.
W: Valdez (1-0); L: Burton (1-2); HR: Canham (2); S: None
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.