By Pat Turner
Jacob Nix made his first start at Wolff Stadium this season.
And the right-hander delivered a positive impression as he tossed a two-hitter through five scoreless innings to ignite the Missions to a 5-4 victory over Midland Tuesday night.
Although Nix shut down the RockHounds, the Missions’ bullpen had its struggles. Thanks to the early pitching success and San Antonio’s 12-hit attack led by Ty France’s 3 for 4 showing that produced two RBIs, Nix was able to claim the win.
Nix, making his appearance at the Wolff since starting game five of last year’s Texas League Division series with Midland, was hindered by injuries in the spring and did not pitch until last week against Tulsa where he went allowed two hits in four shutout innings in a 2-0 victory. Getting back into action is much to his liking.
“I have been here before and I definitely know the difference now is I am definitely more relaxed,” said Nix, who joined the Missions from extended spring training. “Last year when I came out here I was really nervous. I knew if I pitched to my strengths I would be fine.”
Nix surrendered a lead-off walk to Brett Vertigan and hit J.P. Sportman, but the early baserunners stayed put as the Missions starter recovered with two strikeouts and a fly to right field.
“Even in the first inning when the first two guys got on I stayed relaxed,” Nix said. “I told myself it was no big deal. I can get out of this. For me, the first inning is always the toughest for me. If I can do well in that inning, I am going to be fine. The first inning is huge for me because that is where I set the tone.
“My breaking ball was much better this time. I think my changeup was better the last game. I was using my breaking ball more.”
The Missions’ batters provided Nix more comfort with a run in the bottom of the inning on Austin Allen’s sacrifice fly that followed Josh Naylor’s one-out single and France’s double.
More security followed for Nix in the third when Fernando Tatis Jr. lined a single to left and scored on France’s second double. Even more, came in the fourth when Michael Gettys extended his hitting streak to 12 straight with a towering two-run homer over the right-field wall.
Nix departed in the fifth with a 4-0 lead and the RockHounds took advantage of his exit by cutting the deficit in half in the sixth after two walks from reliever Jason Jester set up Seth Brown’s two-run double.
The Missions’ bullpen also struggled in the seventh. With one out. T.J. Weir gave up a single to Tyler Marincov with one out. After a strikeout, Eric Yardley, who joined the Missions Tuesday from Triple-A El Paso, took over and gave up a run-scoring single to Sportman.
A groundout ended Midland’s seventh and a little insurance for the Missions came in the bottom half of the frame on France’s two-out RBI single.
More tension for the Missions came in the eighth as Rowan Wick began the inning with walks to Sean Murphy and Eli White. Brown then loaded the bases with an infield hit to short.
Wick managed to limit the RockHounds to a run, which came on a groundout. With the tying run at third and go-ahead at second, catcher Allen came up with big defensive play of the game by snagging a foul ball near the Missions’ dugout.
Wick then struck out Tyler Marincov to preserve the Missions’ 5-4 lead. Closer Brad Wieck made things more relaxing for San Antonio in the ninth with a one-two-three inning.
“We had a pleasant road trip,” said manager Phillip Wellman, whose Missions went 5-1 on the recent swing through Tulsa and Springfield. “We started here with a win. Nix had another outstanding performance. I don’t think he was as sharp as his first outing. But he made pitches when he needed. He managed his secondary pitches really well.
“If we don’t walk anyone we’re in great shape. We had five walks, but we were able to hold the lead. We swung the bat well. Josh Naylor had a good night. Tatis did his thing. Ty France has really been a machine. Peter Van Gansen gets better every game. And Michael Gettys keeps hitting.”
With 13 games left in the first half of the Texas League, every win is valuable for the Missions, who hold a two-game lead over Corpus Christi in the South Division. Following the four games with Midland, San Antonio hits the road for four with the Hooks.
Although that series in Corpus Christi could be a determining factor for the first-half title, Wellman is looking to pick up momentum against the RockHounds.
“We’re playing well,” Wellman said. “We need to play well, because Corpus keeps winning, too. I told these guys are destiny is in our own hands. We can’t overlook these team (Midland) here. We’ll worry about Corpus when we go to Corpus.”
Missions notes: Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. was named Texas League Player of the Month for May.
The 19-year-old is the second straight Missions player to receive the honor after catcher Austin Allen took the award for April.
Tatis batted .336 with 12 doubles, two triples, and seven home runs while knocking in 16 runs. He also scored 30 runs and stole bases.
Logan Allen and Jason Jester were named Texas League Pitchers of the Week after combining for the Missions’ 13th no-hitter in a 6-0 win over Tulsa.
Allen (7-2), who leads the Texas League in wins, tossed a season-high seven innings, striking out seven while working around five walks.
Pitcher Eric Yardley joins the Missions from Triple-A El Paso.
For images of the game can be found here