A major bolt of lightning flashed and rain started to fall Thursday night at Wolff Stadium, just as Omaha Storm Chasers relief pitcher Richard Lovelady was about to enter the game.
The 6-foot, left-hander wasn't fazed by it at all.
"When I threw my third to the last warmup pitch, I saw a pretty big strike (in the sky)," Lovelady said. "We knew that the weather was going to be coming in (like that) today. We got through it."
Paced by Lovelady's clutch pitching in the eighth and ninth innings, the Storm Chasers cooled off the hottest team in the Pacific Coast League, downing the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio, 3-2, in the first game of a four-game series.
For Omaha, it was no small feat to journey into South Texas and defeat a team that is most commonly known as the Missions.
The Missions, who transform on Thursday nights at home into the Flying Chanclas, had won six in a row and 13 of 16.
But on a day that started with players and coaches on both teams waking up before dawn in other cities, and then battling through an early-morning, commercial air travel experience, the Storm Chasers came away with the victory.
Missions manager Rick Sweet didn't use fatigue stemming from a recent grinding schedule or the long travel-day as an excuse for his team's performance.
Rather, he credited Storm Chasers starter Scott Blewett (3-5) for making the pitches that counted.
Blewett, plus relievers Gabe Speier, Kyle Zimmer and Lovelady, combined to allow only seven hits. They also blanked the Missions 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
"Their (starting) pitcher did a good job," Sweet said. "I thought he threw a good ball game. We hit some balls hard at people. (But) no, the physical part of it, (with the travel), that's just part of the game … If you want to play in the big leagues, you got to be tough and produce."
For the Chanclas, Zack Brown (1-4) took the hard-luck loss. He worked five and a third innings and yielded seven hits and three runs, with only two of them earned.
The end of the game belonged to Lovelady, who earned his second save.
Lovelady, who spent more than a month with the Kansas City Royals before getting optioned to Omaha last weekend, emerged as the toughest competitor on the field in the eighth and ninth.
Entering in the eighth with the potential tying run at third and two out, and with the rain starting to fall heavily, Lovelady retired the side when Lucas Erceg grounded out.
In the ninth, he opened by striking out Jake Hager and Michael O'Neill. After walking Travis Shaw, he fanned the clutch-hitting Tyler Saladino to end the game.
"On Saladino, he's looking for a fastball that he can elevate, so you have to keep the ball down," Lovelady said. "That's why I came with a fastball in and then a slider that was almost in the dirt (that) e fouled off. Then it was the best time to go ahead and elevate (the fastball)."
Troy Stokes Jr. belted a solo homer, and Nate Orf had a couple of hits, including a double, for the Chanclas.
American Southern Division - San Antonio 34-21, Round Rock 32-22, New Orleans 30-25, Oklahoma City 19-34.
American Northern Division - Iowa 33-22, Omaha 26-29, Memphis 23-32, Nashville 21-33.
On Wednesday night, while the Missions closed out a series at Memphis, the Storm Chasers played at home against the Oklahoma City Dodgers. Thursday morning, both traveled to San Antonio via commercial air flights. Later, Thursday night, both played their 16th game in the last 15 days.
Shaw nearing return
Reports out off Milwaukee indicate that infielder Travis Shaw is expected to complete his minor league rehabilitation assignment with the Missions after the Omaha series, which ends Sunday. Shaw is 5 for 26 at the plate in seven games in Triple-A.
Missions outfielder Tyrone Taylor has been on the injured list since Sunday with what manager Rick Sweet called a wrist irritation. Taylor is rehabilitating in Arizona and is day-to-day, Sweet said.
Corey Ray is also on the injured list with a finger injury. Sweet said he doesn't know about any timetable for return. "We've just got to get the swelling out," he said.
New Missions outfielder Michael O'Neill had five hits and scored four runs in his first four games since being called up from Double-A Biloxi. But in his Wolff Stadium debut Thursday, he went 0-for-5 at the plate and struck out four times. O'Neill is the nephew of former 17-year major leaguer Paul O'Neill.
Dubon's day off
Sweet said shortstop Mauricio Dubon will be back in the lineup Friday night against Omaha after getting the night off in the series opener.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.