The Portland Mavericks celebrate their walk-off win over the Salem Senators on Friday, July 9 (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
Coming into the Mavericks series opener with the Senators, Nick Markantonatos never had a walk-off hit.
But when he got his opportunity to be a hero on Friday, July 9, Markantonatos made the most of it.
With the game tied at 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth, Markantonatos launched a two-run blast over the right field wall to give the Mavericks the 7-5 victory over the Senators.
“It feels great. I got the pitch I was looking for and I just drove it,” Markantonatos said.
“The kids were grinding. We were in position all game, we were just missing that one big hit. Fortunately, we got it,” Mavericks manager Alan Embree said.
The Senators jumped on top in the top of the first thanks to a sacrifice fly by Blayze Arcano-Liacuna and an RBI-single from JaVon Logan. However, the Mavericks responded with three runs in the bottom half of the frame to take the lead.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Leomar Jiminez punched a seeing-eye, two-run single past the Senators shortstop. Moments later, Drake Zarate would score on a wild pitch to give the Mavericks the lead.
The Mavericks were active on the bases throughout much of this game, as they stole seven bases on the night — three of which came in the first inning.
“We were just taking advantage of situations. Our boys were aggressive and got good jumps,” Embree said.
Both teams would put up crooked numbers once again in the second inning. Tanner Cantwell came through with an RBI-double for the Senators to tie the game up, which was followed by a two-run single from Edgar Vela, putting Salem back on top 5-3.
But in the bottom half of the frame, RBI-hits from Rodny Rodriguez and Matt Holliday allowed the Mavericks to tie the game at 5-5.
After giving up five runs in the first two innings, Mavericks pitcher Ethan Rosebeck settled in and put up goose eggs for the next five frames.
“He didn't want to come out of the game. That is the kind of kid you want,” Embree said. “He battled his butt off.”
Not to be outdone, however, was Senators pitcher Alan Vazquez. Vazquez came to the hill in relief in the third inning and gave one of the most memorable performances in the brief history of the Mavericks League, striking out 16 hitters in just over six innings of work.
In the top of the eighth, a one-out single by Logan, followed by a walk from Matt Lokken, put the Senators in business and forced Embree to replace Rosebeck on the hill with Nate Hunter.
After giving up an infield single, Hunter retired the next two hitters to get out of the bases loaded jam.
“Whenever it's messy out there, I have a lot of confidence in Nate,” Embree said.
After struggling to make contact on Vazquez, the Mavericks finally broke through in the bottom of the ninth.
“We just got more at-bats and got more guys to see him. He threw a lot of fastballs, and you can time a jet eventually,” Embree said. “Fortunately we had the right part of our order up.”
Holiday got the inning started by lacing a fastball into center field for a hit. After Vazquez's 16th punch-out of the night, Markantonatos stepped to the plate with an opportunity to win the game with one swing.
After looking at a ball and a strike, Markantonatos tattooed a 1-1 curveball deep into the night sky. Once they saw the ball go over the fence, the Mavericks bench celebrated in a frenzy.
“He was throwing me fastballs all game, but I like the off-speed stuff. So when he threw one low, right in my power zone, I just drove it over,” Markantonatos said.
Matt Rawlings: [email protected]