The first 10 innings Thursday hadn't gone well for Desert Dogs first baseman Travis Mattair. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and could feel himself pulling off the ball as he popped up and weakly grounded out. When he came up with one out in the 11th inning and the potential winning run on third base, Mattair told himself to keep things simple.
"Before I went up to the plate, I told myself, 'I'm going to stay to right-center field,'" he said.
Mattair stuck to his game plan against right-hander Matt Loosen. He slapped a single to right field, allowing Colin Moran to score from third base and giving Glendale a 5-4 victory against Mesa at Camelback Ranch.
While Mattair's heroics pulled out the victory for the Desert Dogs, his fellow Reds farmhand Jamie Walczak held the spotlight much of the day. The right-hander began the game with five hitless innings and two relievers carried the no-hitter through seven innings for Glendale.
Walczak allowed just one walk and struck out four batters. He extended his scoreless innings streak to 13.
Mattair has played with Walczak much of the last two seasons at Class A Advanced Bakersfield in 2012 and Double-A Pensacola this year. He was thrilled to see his friend have so much success in the Arizona Fall League.
"Jamie's been a stud all year," Mattair said. "It's really fun fielding behind him. He's a strike thrower and has a quick tempo. His changeup is one of the nastiest changeups I've seen. He's been working on that a lot down here and throughout the season."
But the Mesa offense came to life in the eighth inning against right-hander Colby Suggs, the Marlins' second-round pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. After getting the first out of the inning, Suggs walked two batters. Max Muncy followed with a two-run triple, breaking up the no-hitter and halving Glendale's lead. But the Solar Sox weren't done. Devon Travis hit a two-out, two-run single to tie the game.
Mesa couldn't break through for any more runs, however. Travis got picked off first base by catcher Tucker Barnhart to end the inning. In the ninth, the Solar Sox loaded the bases with one out, but right-hander Trevor May came in from the bullpen to induce a double play and escape the jam.
Albert Almora, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect, went 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI to lead the Solar Sox.
The Desert Dogs have allowed the fewest runs in the AFL and their pitching has been their strength all fall. After giving up the lead in the eighth inning, Mattair said the offense wanted to make sure their latest gem didn't go to waste.
"The pitchers have been pitching well the whole time in the fall," he said. "That one inning happened to get away from them. But us hitters wanted to pick them up because they've been doing that for us all season."
In the 11th inning, Glendale was able to do just that. Moran, the Marlins' No. 4 prospect, led off the inning with a double and then advanced to third on a wild pitch. After Loosen struck out Marcus Semien, Mattair delivered his walk-off hit.
Mattair said his final at-bat was a culmination of what he's been working on throughout the fall.
"I'm just trying to stay consistent with it, stay in the moment and take every at-bat one at a time," he said. "I was 0-for-4 going into my last at-bat today. I tried to clear those at-bats away going into my fifth and get a good pitch to hit and stay with my process instead of worrying about results."