Teen baseball prodigy delivers a walk-off winner in his San Antonio Missions debut

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Teenage baseball prodigy Ethan Salas popped out to the infield in the third inning and took a called third strike in the fifth. He walked in the sixth and then flied out in the eighth.

Ethan Salas gets doused by his teammates after his walkoff double in the 10th inning of his San Antonio Missions debut on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023, at Wolff Stadium. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Ethan Salas gets doused by his teammates after his walkoff double in the 10th inning of his San Antonio Missions debut. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Overall, the No. 5 overall prospect in the minors had not dazzled anyone in his first game with the San Antonio Missions to that point — until he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 10th.

After pinch-runner Connor Hollis stole second base, Salas sent a jolt of electricity through the home crowd at Wolff Stadium, stroking a line-drive double into the gap in right center.

Suddenly, the fans were on their feet. Hollis was churning around third and headed for home, clenching a fist just as he scored the winning run in an 8-7 victory for the Missions over the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

Salas, who turned 17 in June, had won the game in dramatic walk-off style. Afterward, Missions manager Luke Montz praised the ball player’s composure.

“Just meeting the kid today, the guy wants to play baseball,” Montz said. “He wants to get after it. He tells you he wants to get better every day … He’s got a lot to work on, in his game and stuff like that, but he showed in his last at bat, there’s a lot of tools in there. He hits a walk off double. With composure, he controls the game in that situation and he puts good wood on the ball.”

Playing the opener of a six-game home series against the second-half leaders in the Texas League South division, the Missions fell behind 5-0 and 6-2 but didn’t give in.

“Any time you can come back and win a baseball game and walk it off in the bottom of the 10th, it’s always huge for your ball club,” Montz said. “It’s exciting. It’s an exciting moment for your ball club. You look at how we won. Down by five and chipped away. Got to give it all to those guys. They played hard from start to finish and came out on top at the end of the ball game.”

The game marked a new beginning of sorts for the Missions, who won the TL South in first half and then slumped, entering the regular season’s home stretch three games under .500. Five new players were promoted to their roster, including Salas, Nathan Martorella, Jakob Marsee, Graham Pauley and Robbie Snelling.

Trailing by a run entering the bottom of the 10th, a few of the newbies sparked the game-winning rally.

The inning opened as Pauley took the field as the designated runner at second base. Martorella, who had three hits on the night, tied the game with a single to center field.

Hollis, pinch-running for Martorella, stole second base with one out, setting the stage for Salas. Batting from the left side, he worked a 3-2 count against Mitchell Stumpo before stroking his first hit as a Double-A ball player.

In January, Salas was regarded as the top international prospect in the game by both Baseball America and MLB.com. A Florida native, the Venezuelan ball player signed a reported $5.6 million contract Padres.

After going through Padres’ spring training, he started his pro career at Single A Lake Elsinore in the California League and then moved up briefly to Advanced A Fort Wayne in the Midwest League. Between the two, Salas played 57 games and hit for a .257 average.

Salas was particularly impressive in 48 games at Lake Elsinore, hitting for a .267 average, while smashing nine home runs and driving in 35 runs.