After the first eight innings of Tuesday's opening game of the Texas League Finals, it appeared the Missions were done for. Then came the final inning, and the Texas League's top offense came through.
Jaff Decker hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning and Jason Hagerty drew a walk-off walk as Double-A San Antonio scored four times in the frame to rally past Arkansas, 5-4 at Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium.
The Missions had struggled against Travelers starter Matt Shoemaker, as just five runners reached base over the first eight frames. Facing David Carpenter, Blake Tekotte gave the home fans hope, reaching first after being hit by the third pitch of the at-bat. Decker battled against Carpenter before pulling the seventh pitch over the right-field wall to cut the deficit to one.
"It got to a 3-2 count and he threw a slider," said the former first-rounder, who had no doubt it was a homer. "I put a good swing on it and it went over the right-field wall.
"It was a big kind of energy boost in the dugout. Everyone was walking around and no one was sitting."
Jedd Gyorko followed with a walk and Vincent Belnome moved him to second base with a groundout against new pitcher Robert Fish. Sawyer Carroll singled home Gyorko to tie the game with just one out. Reliever Steven Geltz then walked Cody Decker and Carlos Sosa to load the bases, setting the stage for Hagerty's four-pitch base on balls.
"Sawyer Carroll came through with a big single and it rolled from there," Jaff Decker said. "The electricity from the crowd, I don't think anyone was sitting down, and we were all hopped up. The pitcher falling down 3-0 to Hags [Hagerty], we just had that back-of-the-mind thought we were going to pull this one out."
The Missions were the league's most potent offense during the regular season, leading the circuit in runs scored (801), OPS (.795), RBIs (751), doubles (291) and walks (613). Decker, the Padres' No. 8 prospect, said the club never felt like they were out of it, given their offensive capabilities.
"Their starter threw a great game for eight innings, and it always seems to be the last inning where our bats finally wake up," the Arizona native said. "With the offense we have and the way we can get on base, it seems like we're never out of the game."
Decker said rallying to take the opening game provides San Antonio a big boost as the team seeks to win its first title since 2007.
"It would be a different series if we were down, 1-0," the 21-year-old left fielder said. "I feel like we have all the momentum going into Game 2 and having Joe Weiland, who's practically been lights out all year, is huge."
Jorge Reyes picked up the win, retiring both of the batters he faced in relief. Starter Juan Oramas gave up four runs on six hits over six innings for the Missions.
Shoemaker allowed four hits and fanned 10 over eight innings for the Travelers.