The bats got hot, and they got hot early.
The San Antonio Missions (40-26), aka the Flying Chancals, opened a whole can of you know what on the Tacoma Rainiers (32-34) early in their second game against each other in their three-game series.
The Tacoma Rainiers sent out Justus Sheffield to start game two. Sheffield is ranked the fifth best left-handed pitching prospect in all of baseball, but the Missions are no strangers to highly ranked prospects. Sheffield is the tenth top 10 pitcher that the Missions have faced this year and they have a successful 6-3 record and 4-2 in games were the top 10 pitcher starts.
Brewers top prospect Keston Hiura, who recently returned from a brief stint in Milwaukee, made his second game back at the Wolff it a memorable one. After two flyouts in the first inning, Hiura launched a ball 435’ feet over the right field wall to give San Antonio an early 1-0 lead.
Sheffield’s night went from bad to worse almost immediately in the second inning. First basemen Tyler Saladino greeted him with an absolute moon shot that traveled 447 feet and double the Missions lead.
Sheffield proceeded to give up three straight singles, walked a run in, gave up another single and Hiura delivered the death blow via a towering grand slam that capped a seven-run second inning. Hiura’s two home run game is the first since May 23rd when Cory Spangenberg hit two of his own in Round Rock.
“Mine still went farther,” greeted Hiura after his second trip around the bases in the past two innings. The reminded given to him by Saladino to keep him in check after an early two home run performance.
“Put both of mine together and they’ll be farther than yours,”, the quick quip returned by Hiura and the Missions bats would not rest on their laurels.
That grand salami would Sheffield’s day early with a line of 1 2/3 innings pitch, seven hits allowed, eight earned runs and three home runs allowed. The Rainiers bullpen dominated in game one of this series and former Missions head coach Daren Brown needed his bullpen to eat difficult innings ahead.
San Antonio tacked on with a no-out two-hit combination from the bats of Jacob Nottingham and Troy Stokes Jr. Leadoff hitter Mauricio Dubon entered the home run parade with a two-run shot of his own that built their lead to 11-1. The final and longest entry in the home run parade came from Lucas Erceg in the seventh inning. Erceg sent a ball over the right field scoreboard that was measured at 420’ feet but all who were in attendance know that it was closer to 475’.
Erceg’s monster blast capped a 15-run night for the Missions that gave them their highest run total of the season aided by the most home runs they have hit in a game this season as well.
Underneath the excellent performance of the Chancals offense was one of the best starts of Burch Smith’s career. Smith set the tone by striking out the side in the first inning. From then Smith rolled through five innings, only gave up one run on a solo shot by Chris Mariscal and tying his career high with 10 strikeouts. The last time the 29-year-old right-hander reached this high in K’s was in 2013 while he was pitching for the San Diego Padres against the Atlanta Braves.
Manager Rick Sweet could not have been more pleased with the performance of his starting pitcher.
“I thought he threw very well,” Sweet said. “He threw a lot of pitches. He threw over 100 pitches. We were getting concerned because, you can’t throw over 105. It would have been terrible for him to have to take him out and not get five innings in. But a lot of that was due to strikeouts.”
The Missions take on the Rainiers in the final of their three game series Friday at 7:05.