Yerald Martinez stood calmly in the batters box, the loaded bases before him presenting a golden opportunity.
With one powerful swing, he cashed in.
Martinez slugged a grand slam off Billings Mustangs' starter Mac Sceroler in the first inning to immediately increase the Helena Brewers 1-0 to a decisive five-run advantage.
The Mustangs mounted a rally attempt — aided by a pair of home runs and a strong performance from the bullpen — but fell short in the eventual 5-4 loss at Dehler Park on Tuesday in front of 2,732 fans.
The Mustangs (10-6) still hold a two-game lead over the Brewers (8-8) in the Pioneer League North.
"I went in with a plan, and I knew what I had to do," said the 21-year-old outfielder of his first home run of the season. "I waited and I saw the pitch I was looking for and put a good swing on it."
Sceroler began his debut for the Mustangs with a strikeout before walking three of the next four batters to load the bases. Zach Clark then singled to bat in Chad McClanahan.
Next up was Martinez, whose game-deciding grand slam on a two-ball, two-strike count cleared the 410-foot center field wall.
The Brewers built a five-run lead, but the Mustangs' relief pitchers didn't allow them to score again.
"We got down five runs in the first inning, which is tough," said Mustangs' manager Ray Martinez. "But our guys kept battling and were pulling for each other in the dugout and that's what you want to see. I know the kind of guys I have: they're grinders, they're gamers and they're good teammates."
Scerlor was replaced in the second inning by second-year pitcher Moises Nova who tossed five scoreless innings, allowing only one Brewer to reach base. His outing included nine strikeouts, the most by any Mustangs' pitcher this season in a single game.
With the Mustangs' bullpen quieting Helena's bats, Billings' began its comeback bid in the third inning, with solo home runs from Jeter Downs and Morgan Lofstrom.
Alejo Lopez and Lofstrom accounted for the Mustangs' final two runs, with Lopez twice hitting a triple and then reaching home on the next at-bat, the first time on a Lofstrom sacrifice fly in the fifth and the second on a Lofstrom single in the seventh.
In the eighth, the Mustangs' Montrell Marshall and Leandro Santana both reached base, but the inning ended on a pair of strikeouts. Brewers' closer Parker Bean finished the final inning with three quick outs.
The Mustangs may not have completed the comeback, but Martinez said he's happy with his team's progress this season and is confident they'll rebound in the four-game series against Helena.
"It's baseball, we'll bounce back," said Martinez. "We have a young team but we're in first place right now and I like what I see. On defense we still need to work on some areas but we're where we want to be right now. We're off to a good start."