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Mission possible in Texas League09/15/2013 7:33 PM ET
By Ashley Marshall / MiLB.com
On Saturday night, the San Antonio bullpen almost let a late lead slip away in a must-win game. In Sunday's winner-takes-all showdown, there were few tense moments.
Josh Geer pitched five strong innings, Matt Wisler and Jeremy McBryde combined on four frames of one-hit relief and Johan Limonta mashed a grand slam as the Missions strolled to a 5-0 win over Arkansas and their second Texas League championship in three years.
It was the 13th title in team history and fifth in the past 12 seasons for the Padres' Double-A affiliate.
"I've never managed a team that was part of an organization," said former big league infielder Rich Dauer, who has 26 years of coaching experience, including the previous four as the Rockies' third base coach. "I never realized how I needed to be a leader to these kids and help their development and make them better on and off the field. I wanted [to win] so bad for these guys that this moment is really special."
San Antonio grabbed the lead in the first on Robert Kral's two-out RBI double before Limonta slugged his first postseason homer in the fourth to make it 5-0.
"I feel really happy, I'm excited to have this opportunity. I feel so happy, I'm blessed right now," said Limonta, who signed with San Diego out of an independent league in May. "I can't explain how I feel. Everybody has worked so hard for this moment. It's really exciting. It's emotional.
"[I wanted] to get a good pitch to hit. I'm glad I hit the ball out of the park because it gave us a good lead. Right after I hit the ball, I felt really, really, really great. The good thing is it helped our team win a championship. For me, it was my best at-bat of the whole season. It was a high 2-2 changeup. [Travelers starter Brandon Hynick] threw a really good game, and he just left it up."
The lead was more than enough for Geer (2-0), who also got the win in Game 5 of the semifinals against Corpus Christi.
The 20-year-old right-hander worked around Cyle Hankerd's two-out single in the first and Jimmy Swift's one-out double an inning later. Geer set down nine of the next 10 batters before Travis Witherspoon beat out an infield single in the fifth. But he was thrown out trying to steal.
Wisler, the Padres' No. 5 prospect, came out of the bullpen on four days' rest and set down all nine batters he faced before McBryde pitched around a hit in the ninth to close out the championship.
"There's no better way to win a championship than with a strikeout. It was a great feeling," said Geer, who raced on to the field after McBryde fanned Angels No. 2 prospect C.J. Cron.
"It was a team effort all the way around. Everybody did their part. ... It feels really good. This is what you play for. Being with these guys all season long, they feel like family."
The Missions clinched a playoff berth by finishing second in the South Division in the second half behind Corpus Christi, which had already won the first-half title. They led the league with a 3.19 ERA, 50 saves, a .256 batting average and 171 stolen bases. No team hit fewer homers (85) or allowed fewer homers (93) than San Antonio.
And during their 10-game playoff run, the Missions allowed a total of 22 runs.
"Our pitching staff has been so dominant and so good all year," said Dauer, who played second base for 10 seasons with the Orioles from 1976-85. "We lost our leading hitter and leading player to the big leagues -- and most teams lose guys -- but the character of the team going through adversity, I'm more impressed with their character than what they accomplished on the field.
"If there was ever a time to win something for the kids, these kids deserved to be where they are today."
Hynick (0-2) was charged with all five runs -- one earned -- on seven hits over five innings for the Travelers.