By Pat Turner
The Missions are no longer at the top of the Texas League South Division.
Thanks to Corpus Christi’s 8-6 come-from-behind victory Sunday at Wolff Stadium, the Missions go into Monday’s first-half finale a half-game behind the new owners of first place.
However, there is a chance at redemption as the Missions play the Hooks for all the marbles. That will be another challenge. Corpus Christi sends Alamo Heights product Forrest Whitley to the mound, while San Antonio calls on Colin Rea, who is getting his sixth rehab start with the Missions.
The Missions look to regroup and snap their three-game losing streak. For the Hooks, this is the ideal situation. After all, they were six games behind the Missions earlier in the year and suffered a four-game sweep during their last trip to the Wolff, two of the losses coming on walk-off grand slams.
That is all ancient history.
“Omar (Missions manager Lopez) does a great job of keeping it light,” said Hooks outfielder Stephen Wrenn, who went 1 for 5 with an RBI while also playing a key role in Corpus Christi’s game-winning two-run rally in the eighth. “We’ve had fun all season. I think it’s only right that it comes down to us and the Missions, because it’s been a tough series every time.”
The way things were looking Sunday, it appeared the Missions were going to wrap up the title. Jerry Keel breezed through the first five innings with a 2-0 lead.
Though the Hooks came back to tie the score in the sixth, a solo home run from Webster Rivas put the Missions back in front. The seventh and eighth innings proved to be the Missions’ downfall.
San Antonio overcame Corpus Christi’s four-run rally in the seventh to tie the score, but two unearned runs in the eight put them in another hole.
This Hooks did not let any dramatics happen this time as reliever Riley Ferrell (2-2) shut down the Missions the final two innings.
The Missions at least showed more offensive punch after totaling eight runs in their four games at Frisco.
The first hint of a breakthrough came in the second.
Kyle Overstreet and Rivas unloaded one-out singles off Corpus Christi starter Cionel Perez.
Just when it seemed Perez might be getting out of trouble after striking out Michael Gettys, Matt Batten looped an opposite field two-run double to right.
Taylor Jones dropped a single into left and Yordan Alvarez, who went 2 for 5 with three RBIs, sent a game-tying towering two-run blast over the right-field fence.
Rivas helped the Missions regain the lead in the bottom of the inning by golfing a solo home run off reliever Framber Valdez with two outs.
The advantage didn’t last as the Hooks came firing back in the seventh. Alex De Goti’s single and a walk to McCormick ended Keel’s day. Anibal Sierra then sent an RBI single past second off reliever Eric Yardley and Wrenn followed with a run-scoring single past short.
Josh Rojas then ended Yardley’s outing. Rojas had a slight setback during the at-bat when he fouled a pitch off his foot. He braved through the pain and drilled a run-scoring double to right.
The lead vanished.
Carrying the 6-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh, Valdez got into quick trouble by walking Batten and giving up a single to Rod Boykin.
The Hooks were able to get the force at third on Fernando Tatis Jr.’s grounder, but Naylor ripped a run-scoring single to center. Wrenn misplayed the ball, enabling Naylor and Tatis to move into scoring position.
Ty France, who had one of the Missions’ grand slam walk-offs in the previous meeting with the Hooks, slammed a two-run double to tie things up at 6-6.
The Hooks, however, countered with the knockout punch in the eighth.
Rowan Wick (2-4), who started the inning with two strikeouts, walked McCormick and Sierra followed with a single to left.
Wrenn sent a slow grounder toward third. France lost the grip on the ball, enabling the go-ahead run to score. Rojas then lined a run-scoring single off the glove of second baseman Battan.