When balls were flying out of the park in batting practice, Skyler Stromsmoe couldn't muscle one over the fence. Luckily for the Flying Squirrels, things were different in the Eastern League Finals opener.
The Giants shortstop went 4-for-4 with a go-ahead two-run homer in the ninth inning Tuesday to give Double-A Richmond a 10-9 victory over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
"I think as a team, for us to win Game 1 of the championship, it would be the biggest game for us [this year] for sure," Stromsmoe said. "It's big to get that momentum -- now we're only two wins away from winning this thing."
After New Hampshire plated three in the eighth to take a one-run lead, Stromsmoe stepped into the batters' box with one out and a man on first. With only two home runs to his credit this year, the 27-year-old switch-hitter belted the ball over the right-field fence to give the Squirrels the lead for good.
"Jackson Williams got a strike on him and then [Bobby Korecky] was throwing him some sliders," Stromsmoe said. "I thought that if he does get ahead in my at-bat, he's probably going to throw sliders. It was a 1-1 count, and you're not necessarily looking off-speed because a lot of the time you can look but still not hit it right. I think the planets lined up right, and fortunately I got it up and snuck it out."
Richmond's Jackson Williams also went 4-for-4 on the night, while No. 3 Giants prospect Charlie Culberson went 3-for-6 with a homer, three RBIs and two runs. Wendell Fairley and Johnny Monell were the other two Squirrels to enjoy multi-hit games, combining to go 5-for-8.
"Watching their team take batting practice and ours as well, a lot of balls were leaving the yard," Stromsmoe said. "None of mine did, but the ball was flying tonight."
San Francisco's No. 7 prospect Heath Hembree (2-0) gave up a run in the eighth, but pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the win.
Stromsmoe said he had not hit a meaningful homer late in a game since he was a teenager playing in the American Legion. Overall, the game ranked as one of the more noteworthy of his five-year pro career.
"This is my ninth pro homer or something," Stromsmoe said. "This is the most meaningful. Others were in the middle of game, I don't really remember. I'm sure this one I'll remember for a little while."
Game 2 will be played Wednesday in New Hampshire, and the rest of the best-of-5 series will take place in Richmond.