San Antonio forced a winner-take-all Game 5 of the Texas League Championship Series following a thrilling, 6-5 victory over Arkansas Saturday night at Dickey-Stephens Park.
The Missions, who managed just two runs in the first three games of the series, got off to a great start offensively in Game 4. San Antonio collected a hit in each of the first two innings against Arkansas starter Lay Batista before breaking through for the game's first run in the top of the third. Jeudy Valdez opened the inning with a single to right, but was quickly erased when Rico Noel bounced into a fielder's choice. After Cory Spangenberg moved Noel to third with a line-drive single to right, designated hitter Austin Hedges gave the Missions a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly to deep center.
An inning later, San Antonio put Batista in more trouble when a Jake Blackwood single and a Yeison Asencio double placed runners on second and third with nobody out. Adam Buschini put the Missions up 2-0 when he followed with a sacrifice fly to left. Next batter, Rocky Gale pushed the lead to three with a perfectly executed suicide squeeze.
Asencio gave San Antonio a commanding 6-0 lead in the top of the fifth when he delivered a clutch, two-out, bases-clearing triple off reliever Elvin Ramirez. All three of the runs were charged to Batista (0-1), who allowed six runs on seven hits in four and two-thirds innings.
The offensive eruption was more than enough for Missions' starter Juan Oramas (1-0), who allowed just two hits and one walk, while striking out seven in six shutout innings. The southpaw threw 59 of his 86 pitches for strikes. Oramas has not allowed a run in 12 postseason innings.
Arkansas took advantage of Oramas' departure in the seventh, cutting their deficit to 6-4 on run-scoring doubles by C.J. Cron and Travis Witherspoon and a two-RBI single by pinch-hitter Ryan Jones. Leonel Campos, the third Mission reliever of the inning, prevented further damage when he induced Taylor Lindsey to fly out to right with the tying runs on base.
Campos struck out the side in the eighth, but not before serving up a solo homer to Cron that made the score 6-5.
Fortunately for San Antonio, Jeremy McBryde ended any hopes of an improbable Arkansas comeback with a perfect ninth. It was the right-hander's third save of the postseason.
The teams will meet in a deciding Game 5 Sunday at Dickey-Stephens Park. First pitch will be 2:10 PM. Josh Geer (1-0, 3.00) will take the ball for San Antonio, while Arkansas will counter with fellow righty Brandon Hynick (0-1, 1.13). Geer pitched the Missions to a Game 5 win in the TLDS at Corpus Christi last Sunday. Hynick was the hard-luck loser in Game 1 of the TLCS at Wolff Stadium after allowing just one run in eight innings.
Notes: The last time a TLCS went to a Game 5 was 2008, when Arkansas defeated Frisco 11-3 at Dr Pepper Ballpark.