Southwest University Park has seen less baseball action than any other venue in the Minor Leagues as the nation's newest facility. But Monday's finish might rank among the stadium's best for a long time, regardless.
Jake Lemmerman blasted a two-out, two-strike walk-off grand slam in the ninth inning to give Triple-A El Paso a 13-10 win over Sacramento, completing a series sweep to close the franchise's first homestand in its new city.
"[Sacramento reliever Evan Scribner] has got a really good curveball," Lemmerman said. "It's big and it's a little slower. He changes his speeds really well because he throws low-90s and throws like a 70-mph curveball. He threw me a couple good ones, and I was just trying to stay on top of it as long as I could. If you don't, you're going to be swinging through that pitch every single time. I stuck to my plan. It was still a good pitch down and away. I just got out front and got enough of the barrel."
Lemmerman's slam was the third in a wild game in which El Paso erased an early six-run deficit by scoring eight times between the third and fourth. First baseman Tommy Medica blasted a grand slam in the fourth to give the Chihuahuas their first lead.
El Paso starter Matt Wisler, the Padres' No. 3 prospect, was roughed up in his Triple-A debut. He surrendered six runs on eight hits while walking four and striking out three over three innings.
"He's such a good pitcher," said Lemmerman, who played alongside Wisler with Double-A San Antonio earlier this year. "Every guy's going to have those one or two starts. That's not how he wants it to go, but we went back and forth battling those guys. Coming out on top is good for the pitchers, getting him off the hook and helping our offensive side, too. Taking care of your teammates is the main thing."
The River Cats surged back in front, courtesy of Michael Taylor's eighth-inning grand slam. That set the stage for Lemmerman.
Jeff Francoeur and Adam Moore singled with one out in the ninth and Tyler Greene walked to load the bases. Reymond Fuentes struck out and Lemmerman was down to his last strike when he mashed Scribner's offering out to left.
"They have a huge wall in left field at this field, so you kind of just want it to get over," Lemmerman said. "It's a pretty big park. I think there was one homer in the first four games that we played here. Today to have three grand slams was pretty funny, but I had a feeling it was at least going to win the game with the bases loaded. It was a plus that it went over."
The walk-off homer was the first of Lemmerman's career.
"The fans and all the noise put me in a little trance," he said. "I hit third base and saw 'Murph' [manager Pat Murphy] ready to shake my hand and all the guys when I got to home plate. It was awesome."
El Paso stayed within striking distance, thanks to a steady night by Branch Kloess and Blaine Boyer, both of whom worked two scoreless innings in relief of Wisler. After Chris Rearick surrendered the lead in the eighth, Hector Ambriz (1-0) pitched a perfect ninth for the win.
Scribner (0-1) was charged with his first blown save of the year after allowing four runs on three hits while walking one and striking out one in two-thirds of an inning.
The electrifying finish capped a whirlwind first homestand for the Chihuahuas, who sold out their new home for the seventh time in eight games.
"You want to earn the fans' respect," Lemmerman said. "Tommy Medica, they were chanting his name tonight and he hit a grand slam. They're loving it and it's a good thing to have for the city. We're just trying to go out there and play as well as we can and have a great time for them as well."
Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.