While the Helena Brewers promoted the game as Super Heroes night, the team needed a hero of its own on Thursday.
It came in the form of a 5-foot-3, 184-pound slugger.
Jose Gomez -- who did his own version of a Clark Kent becoming Superman, swapping from first base coach to pinch run and hit for just the second time -- hit a single with the bases loaded and the Brewers walked off in the bottom of the 13th inning, besting the visiting Billings Mustangs 6-5 at Kindrick Legion Field.
After Helena experienced a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in the wee hours of Thursday morning, 1,176 fans showed their support in the evening.
Gomez had hit two grand slams during the Brewers' seven-game road trip, but was only called on late in the game as a pinch runner. It was the right call by manager Nestor Corredor.
“If you check over our games, that’s part of our development,” Corredor said. “Everybody needs to coach first base three or four innings every game to keep locked in. Today it worked because Gomez coached first base and got to to see the catcher and everybody else.”
The majority of the game’s scoring came in the first five innings, as Helena flew out to a 5-4 lead. Billings found another run in the seventh, and then it took until Gomez’s hit for the grand finale.
The Brewers returned to Helena after a 4-3 road swing. They split their two games in Billings, leaving the season series tied at 3-3 entering Thursday night’s contest.
Nelson Hernandez (2-0) got the start on the mound for the Brewers. His last start came on Saturday in Missoula, where he earned a win after the Brewers defeated the Osprey 11-1. Nelson had seen the Mustangs once before this season, on June 26. In that contest, Nelson went six innings and gave up two runs off eight hits and struck out four, helping the Brewers to a 4-2 win.
Nelson got off to a solid start, putting down the first three batters he faced to make for a quick first inning.
Tyler Mondile (1-1, 2.40 ERA) went six innings and gave up nine hits and five earned runs, while striking out three and walking one.
After Payton Henry’s fly out -- falling short of a home run by a few feet -- advanced runners to second and third, Gabriel Garcia hit a line drive down the left field line and gave the Brewers a 2-0 lead. A groundout by Zach Clark on his first pitch would end the inning.
Leandro Santana struck back just as Hernandez looked like he might get through another three-up, three-down inning. Santana belted a shot that just snuck out of the right field corner for a solo shot home run.
With two outs in the bottom of the second, Mondile looked to be settled into the mound, outing two batters with four pitches. Then, Antonio Pinero worked through a full count and drilled a line drive back at Mondile to reach first. Nick Roscetti followed that up with a line drive to left field for double, putting two runners in scoring position. Antonio finished the scoring opportunity off with a single to center field, bringing in two more runs.
Stuart Fairchild chopped a soft fly ball to right field and scored another run for the Mustangs in the top of the third.
In the top of the fourth, Andy Sugilio struck out, but reached first base after a wild pitch. Alejo Lopez hit a grounder to right field and moved Sugilio to third. Pabel Manzanero hit a grounder to score one. Then, Jake Turnbull hit a single on a grounder to center and scored another run, tying the game at four.
Brent Diaz doubled on a line drive to right field and scored another Brewers run in the fifth inning.
Roberto Delgado, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound 28th round pick by Milwaukee, pitched two innings and gave up one earned run, two hits and walked two while striking out one.
The Mustangs, however, knotted the game again in the seventh. Downs sent a 2-1 pitch out over the left field wall, the solo shot becoming his second home run of the season.
Ryan Nutof entered the game for the Mustangs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Brandon Texiera came in as the second reliever for the Brewers to make his fourth appearance of the season.
Cory Thompson came to the mound for the Mustangs in the ninth. The former shortstop had his chance to make an impression in a clutch situation as the scoreboard read Brewers 5, Mustangs 5.
Jose Gomez came in as a pinch runner after Yerald Martinez singled to left inning to start the bottom of the ninth.
Nicolas Pierre bunted on a second strike and it went foul to record the Brewers' first out. Then, Antonio Pinero hit into a double play and the Brewers went to their fifth extra inning game of the season. The Brewers went scoreless over their final four innings.
In the bottom of the 10th, the Brewers looked like they were in business. A fielding error put Carroll on first and then Bret Diaz hit a line drive single to left field, and Carroll gambled, turning at second and sliding into third. Home plate umpire Jake Bruner called Carroll safe, prompting a conversation from Mustangs skipper Orlando Merced. One out and runners on the corners, the Brewers looked like they had Thompson in a dire situation on the mound.
But two strike outs later, the Brewers and Mustangs were head to an 11th inning.
Texiera gave up a hit when a ball that looked destined to be foul ended up as a single for Lopez. After a sacrifice bunt, Texiera struck out two more batters, excitedly spinning off the mound after he completed his seventh strikeout and fourth inning of work and gave the Brewers another chance to walk off.
The Mustangs swapped in Connor Ryan on the mound in the bottom of 11.
Helena squandered Jose Gomez’s one-out single in the 11th. Jay Feliciano came into to pinch hit and struck out facing a 2-2 count, and then Pinero grounded out into a force out.
The Brewers went to Juan Diaz in the 12th inning.
Pinero tagged second and hurled a throw to first to record a double play and keep the Mustangs off the board.
Ryan put down three Brewers with ease to close out the 12th, forcing a flyout and a lineout before striking out the last batter, his fourth strikeout in two innings of work.
Diaz forced a line out and a ground out to start the stop of the 13th. Then, Lopez walked and stole a base to move to second. Diaz looked like he may be on his way to walking another, throwing three balls to start the at-bat against Morgan Lofstrom. Two strikes and then Diez got a groundout from Lofstrom to keep the scoreboard unscathed.
Miguel Aguilar entered in the bottom of the 13th inning for the Mustangs.
Payton Henry benefitted from an error to open up the 13th as Leandro Santana sailed a throw over Montrell Marshall‘s head, allowing Henry to move to second. Charlie Meyer came in to pinch run for Henry.
The Brewers will have Alec Bettinger (1-0, 1.69) on the mound to face Mustangs’ Matt Blandino (2-0, 3.94). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.