Playoffs primer: Five players to watch for the San Antonio Missions

Ryan Bergert - August 25, 2023 vs. Amarillo Sod Poodles

Ryan Bergert is expected to start for the Missions tonight against the explosive Amarillo Sod Poodles. Bergert pitched six scoreless innings at home against Amarillo on Aug. 25, — File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

Here are a few San Antonio Missions players to watch as they continue their first-round Texas League playoff series tonight at home against the Amarillo Sod Poodles. San Antonio leads Amarillo 1-0 in the best-of-three between teams in the TL South Division. With a win tonight, the Missions would clinch their first playoff series victory since 2018.

Ryan Bergert
Age: 23
Born: Canton, Ohio
Position: Pitcher

The 6-foot-1 righthander is expected to start for the Missions tonight. Bergert’s task is a tough one, to try and slow down an explosive Amarillo offense. Though San Antonio escaped with a 12-11 victory in 10 innings Tuesday night, the Sod Poodles did damage with 17 hits and five home runs. Bergert’s third season as a pro has turned out to be his best. He has fashioned a 6-4 record with a 2.79 earned run average (combined) at both High A Fort Wayne, Ind., and at San Antonio. With the Missions since July 14, he has pitched in nine games and is 1-2 with a 2.86 ERA. His WHIP is solid at 1.14 and opponents hit only .206 against him. One of Bergert’s best performances came against Amarillo at home on Aug. 25 when he pitched six scoreless innings and struck out nine. The Sod Poodles scored an unearned run against the Missions’ bullpen and won the game, 1-0.

Did you know? Bergert pitched in the Big 12 with the West Virginia Mountaineers. He sat out the 2021 season after Tommy John elbow surgery but still got drafted that summer, selected in the sixth round by the San Diego Padres.

Nathan Martorella

Nathan Martorella - Sept. 15 vs. Springfield Cardinals

Nathan Martorella, taking a swing on Sept. 15 at home against Springfield, hit two home runs for the Missions in their playoff opener Tuesday night. — File photo by Joe Alexander

Age: 22
Born: Monterey, Calif.
Position: First base

Martorella went three for five at the plate and slammed two, two-run home runs in the team’s playoff opener. The former all Pac-12 player for the Cal Bears started his second professional season at High-A Fort Wayne, Ind. With the TinCaps, he played in 112 games, hit 16 home runs and produced 73 RBIs. Promoted to Double-A, he joined the Missions on Aug. 22. In 23 regular-season games, Martorella struggled a bit in hitting for a .236 average. He hit three home runs and drove in 15.

Did you know? Martorella was born in Monterey, Calif., and grew up in Salinas. He excelled academically at Salinas High School with a 3.9 GPA. Graduated in 2019 and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 30th round, but did not sign. He went on to attend Cal and became a three-year starter. Blossomed into an all Pac-12 player as a junior. He was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the fifth round in 2022.

Marcos Castanon

Marcos Castanon - July 14 vs. Arkansas Travelers

Marcos Castanon, seen here playing at home against Arkansas on July 14, has sparked the Missions with his defense and his offense. — File photo by Joe Alexander

Age: 24
Born: San Bernardino, Calif.
Position: Second base

Castanon, a 12th-round draft pick two years ago out of UC Santa Barbara, he came up big both defensively and offensively for the Missions in the playoff opener. After receiving a throw from the outfield, he threw out Kristian Robinson at the plate to save a run in the seventh inning. In the 10th, he blasted a three-run homer to give the Missions a five-run lead. To start the year, Castanon played 77 games in High A at Fort Wayne, Ind. Assigned to the Missions on July 14, he hit .280 in 54 regular-season games.

Did you know? Born in San Bernardino, Castanon grew up in Rialto, where he hit .579 as a high school senior. In college, he was a four-year starter at UC Santa Barbara. He hit .404 as a senior in 2021 when the Gauchos reached the NCAA tournament. In the tournament, they beat Oklahoma State twice before bowing out of the Tucson Regional in four games.

Homer Bush, Jr.

Homer Bush Jr. - Sept. 12 vs. Springfield Cardinals

Homer Bush Jr. hit .429 in eight regular-season games for the Missions and homered in the team’s first playoff game Tuesday. — File photo by Joe Alexander

Age: 21
Born: Grapevine
Position: Center field

Bush had a big night in his first playoff game in the minors, going two for three with a home run, three runs scored, two RBIs and a stolen base. The rangy outfielder is a Texan, a native of Grapevine who played at Southlake Carroll High School. In college, he played for Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. The San Diego Padres drafted him in July out of GCU. In a meteoric rise through the system, the first-year pro has played on three levels of the minors this summer, starting with rookie ball at the Arizona Complex League, then with Lake Elsinore in the Single-A California League and now with the Missions. He joined the Missions on Sept. 8 and played eight regular-season games, hitting .429. On the last day of the regular season, he went four for four at the plate, meaning that in his last two games he is six for seven at the plate.

Did you know? His father, Homer Bush Sr., played in the major leagues for seven seasons, suiting up for the New York Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Miami Marlins. He won a World Series title with the Yankees in 1998. But in 1999, the Yanks packaged David Wells and Graeme Lloyd and Bush and sent them to the Blue Jays for pitcher Roger Clemens. Clemens, now retired after winning 354 games in the majors, is listed as part of the Ryan Sanders group holding an ownership stake in the Missions.

Lake Bachar

Lake Bachar - Aug. 22, 2023 vs. Sod Poodles

Lake Bachar, a former college football player at Wisconsin-Whitewater, hasn’t allowed an earned run since Aug. 17. — File photo by Joe Alexander

Age: 28
Hometown: Winfield, Ill.
Position: Relief pitcher

Bachar is riding a nearly month-long streak of 10 appearances without allowing an earned run. He capped the streak Tuesday night by striking out four in two scoreless innings. Over that time, Bachar has pitched 17 innings, while yielding only five hits and two runs (neither of them earned). Also in the streak, he has struck out 21 and walked five. Last time he gave up an earned run? It was Aug. 17. On that date he yielded three runs (all earned) on four hits in 2 and 1/3 innings a 9-4 loss to the Midland RockHounds.

Did you know? Bachar played football and baseball in college at NCAA Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater. In 2014 and 2015, he was a kicker and a punter on the nationally-ranked football team. He kicked a 46-yard field goal in an D-III semifinal playoff game against Mount Union (Ohio).

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