By Pat Turner
Missions’ manager Phillip Wellman gave a little something extra during the series finale with Northwest Arkansas Thursday night at Wolff Stadium with another classic ejection performance.
It wasn’t as memorable as the one Wellman displayed while managing the Mississippi Braves nine years ago where his antics can still be viewed on websites. Nor did his argument rank up there with the one displayed by Frisco manager Joe Mikulik’s show, which went viral after being tossed earlier this week.
However, Wellman’s tirade in the sixth was strong enough to light a fire, because the Missions responded by setting up Nick Schulz’s RBI singles in the sixth and eighth innings for a 3-1victory.
“That definitely puts a fire in you,” Schulz said. “Everyone was pumped up. It is good to have a manager who has your back.”
Unfortunately for Wellman, the departure prevented him from seeing it live. At least he got to view an outing much to his liking on his office TV.
“We played well tonight,” Wellman said. “We got some guys on and moved them over. We got a two-out hit from Schulz that was nice. You win games by out executing. It was good to see.
“That’s two in a row and we haven’t done that in a long time. Hopefully, we’ll get catapulted in the right direction and string a couple more together.”
The excitement began with the score tied at 1-all in the sixth.
Nelson Ward dropped a single into left. Jose Rondon, who gave the Missions an earlier 1-0 lead with a solo home run, sent a bunt in front of the plate and Northwest Arkansas catcher Cameron Gallagher fired the ball to second as Ward came sliding in.
Umpire Nestor Ceja ruled Ward came in with an illegal slide, resulting in a double play, triggering a debate from Wellman, who was tossed immediately. During his exit, the Missions’ manager yanked second base from the dirt and carried it with him en route to the dugout before giving it a heave-ho.
“I hope I fired (players) up,” Wellman said. “I don’t want to have to do it, certainly. I would rather them go out there every day and play with a little fire and energy. At the same time I am going to defend and protect.”
What happened after Wellman left?
Nick Torres lined a double to center and scored on Schulz’s bouncing two-out single past first to break a 1-1 tie.
More excitement followed.
Following Bryce Morrow’s solid three-hit performance through six innings, reliever Rafael De Paula, who joined the team from El Paso earlier in the day, began the seventh with a strikeout. However, Frank Schwindel’s infield hit and back-to-back walks loaded the bases.
De Paula then had a 3-0 count on Terrance Gore, but came back to strike out the batter, before fanning Jack Lopez.
In the eighth, a diving catch by Torres in left field and a backhand snag by Ward at second, along with a strikeout from Kyle McGrath, helped the Missions maintain the lead.
An insurance run followed in the eighth with a little more manufacturing.
Ward drew his third walk of the game, went to second on a balk by Eric Stout, before Schulz singled him home.
“I was just trying to get a pitch to hit,” Schulz said. “I was just trying not to chase pitches and do too much. I just told myself to relax and go from there. The run in the sixth was big. We definitely needed that. It put us ahead and then we got the insurance run.”
Jason Jester closed out the game to record his seventh save in as many attempts.
Wellman got to see Morrow’s outing live and that was pleasing.
The Missions’ starter (1-6), who came into the contest with a 7.31 ERA, was on his mark, giving up one run in the process.
Morrow, who struck out three and walked one, was in the zone consistently. Although the Missions committed two errors during his time on the mound, their clutch plays in the third prevented Northwest Arkansas from tying the score.
After starting the inning with an infield hit, Gore stole second and sped to third on Richard Valenzuela’s throwing error. However, the Missions’ catcher made up for the miscue.
Lopez sent a fly to shallow center and Gore raced home. Center fielder Auston Bousfield fired the ball to Valenzuela, who tagged Gore a step away from crossing the plate.
Northwest Arkansas, however, was successful on a sacrifice fly in the fourth to tie the game.
However, Morrow finished the game by retiring eight in a row, before the fun began.