Missions catcher Jason Hagerty ripped a home run on the first pitch in the bottom of the ninth to lift his team to a 4-3 win over Northwest Arkansas on Monday night at Wolff Stadium.
Hagerty's first home run of the season capped an impressive comeback after the Naturals jumped out to an early 3-0 lead.
“Everyone says they try to hit a home run, but that's when you wind up playing 15 innings,” said Hagerty, who also singled in the sixth. “I was just trying to get on base.”
First baseman Nate Freiman, who contributed two RBIs for the Missions, said “there was no doubt about that one. That was pretty cool to see.”
The game-winner would have simply tied the score if Hagerty hadn't made a great defensive play at the plate in the top of the ninth.
The Naturals' Christian Colon tried to score from first on a double by Johnny Whittleman, but a strong relay by Missions second baseman Dean Anna went up the third-base line.
Hagerty flagged down the throw, only to miss the initial tag on the sliding Colon. The Naturals shortstop overslid home, however, and Hagerty scurried back and beat him to the plate to keep the score 3-3.
Hagerty sent the first pitch from NW Arkansas pitcher Matt Mariot over the right-field fence to keep the Missions from a 1-4 start.
After spotting the Naturals a 3-0 lead through 51/2 innings, the Missions finally broke through on the scoreboard for the first time in 24 innings.
Freiman had the honors of breaking the drought, reaching on a fielder's choice with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth.
“I'm not looking to expand the strike zone (in that situation), I'm looking for a ball to hit,” Freiman said. “You can't start thinking too big and try to clear all the bases.”
Missions starter Robbie Erlin, returing to the mound after a left oblique injury, was on a pitch count and made it through 22/3 innings, allowing two runs.
Four pitchers finished the game, with 6-foot-9 right-hander Matt Lollis getting the win.