Cameron Rupp can't remember hitting a walk-off home run since college and had never hit a grand slam as a professional baseball player.
Wednesday afternoon, he did both.
The former University of Texas catcher hit a walk-off grand slam to give the Express a 9-6 win over Oklahoma City in the 10th inning, as the team picked up their first win in five tries against the Dodgers this season.
“I just thought about winning it,” Rupp said. “They brought five guys into the infield and I was trying to get a ball in the air. I got all of it.”
Andy Ibanez and Christian Lopes had back-to-back hits Round Rock to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth.
New minor league rules for the 2018 season have a runner starting on second base in extra innings, and Oklahoma City took advantage, scoring on a single after two straight outs in the 10th.
Round Rock’s Jose Cardona started the bottom half of the inning on second, Nick Noonan walked and Willie Calhoun — who hit the first-ever walk-off grand slam in Express history against his former team last September — was intentionally walked to load the bases for Rupp, who was playing just his ninth game with the team.
“It’s something we needed,” Rupp said. “It’s been a rough start, but we’ve been playing some good baseball and there have been games that we could’ve won that we just didn’t. It’s one of those things that we’ll take what happened here and bring it into tomorrow.”
Express reliever Deolis Guerra (1-0, 5.68) picked up his first win of the season after allowing one hit and two strikeouts in the 10th inning.
Round Rock starter Adrian Sampson pitched six innings, allowing four runs — three earned — on six hits with three strikeouts. Nick Gardewine, Brandon Mann and Jose Leclerc combined to allow one run and four hits with three strikeouts in middle relief.
The Express dropped the previous four games this season they’ve played against the Dodgers, who hit four home runs in an 8-4 in the series opener on Tuesday night — the most against Round Rock since July 2017.
“We pitched well last night and Sampson gave us enough to win today and the bullpen kept us in it,” Rupp said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Oklahoma City scored three runs in the third innings thanks to back-to-back doubles with none out and a throwing error by Round Rock shortstop Nick Noonan. The Dodgers added another run in the fifth on a single to left field.
Round Rock got on the board in the sixth when Scott Heineman hit a soft double and Cardona jogged home from their base.
Alex Verdugo hit his second RBI double of the game for Oklahoma City in the seventh, but Hanser Alberto returned the favor in the bottom half of the inning with a line drive to left field that scored Destin Hood.
Oklahoma City and Round Rock continue the four-game series with games on Thursday and Friday night with the first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. on both nights.
“This is a young clubhouse,” Rupp said. “It’s the first time in Triple-A for a lot of them. There are a couple veteran guys that have been around. So we’re trying to show these guys what it takes to play at this level and was it takes to move on and win ballgames.”