In their final home series of the first half of Texas League play, the Amarillo Sod Poodles had two streaks end, one of which was longer than the other.
That resulted in them being two steps further behind.
After a promising start to a six-game series against Texas League South Division leader San Antonio which had a wild range of possibilities, the Sod Poodles came down to earth. They saw a franchise record seven-game winning streak come to an end and missed a chance to salvage a series sweep at Hodgetown on Sunday, as the Missions closed the series with seven unanswered runs to leave town with an 11-4 victory.
That left the Sod Poodles (31-32) four games behind San Antonio for the division lead as the first half of the TL season comes to a close. The Soddies will go on the road for a six-game series at Corpus Christi to close the first half of the season.
If the Sod Poodles are to have any chance of winning the first half division title and an automatic playoff berth, there’s extremely little margin for error this week. They entered the series against the Missions trailing by only two games, but losing four of their last five games has diminished their hopes of a first half title.
“It would have been nice to get a split,” Sod Poodles manager Shawn Roof said. “We did a lot of nice things this series and we played some good baseball. Obviously at times we didn’t execute what we wanted to. You’ve got to tip your hats to (the Missions) because they’re a good team and they came out and brought it.”
That was what the Sod Poodles had decisively done prior to the series against the Missions. They pulled off an improbable six-game sweep at Midland before returning to Hodgetown against San Antonio.
The hot streak reached a club-record seven wins after the first game with the Missions, which the Soddies won 10-2 to pull to within a game of the division lead. Right-hander Jamison Hill finally picked up his first win of the season, going five innings for the victory, as the Sod Poodles took the lead for good on Neyfy Castillo’s two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth.
They got some insurance with five runs in the seventh, sparked by back-to-back homers from Adrian Del Castillo and Deyvison De Los Santos.
Hill would get another start in the series finale Sunday. Again, he went five innings, but failed to get a decision, as an otherwise respectable effort was marred by two San Antonio homers, resulting in a 4-4 tie upon Hill’s departure.
“Jamison did a great job this series,” Roof said. “Obviously he’s been going through some things and had some ups and downs. He’s continued to compete and I think the biggest thing of all is he gave up two runs early but he shut it down and gave us a chance to stay in the ball game. We just hope he continues to take that into the next series.”
When Hill left on Sunday, things came apart in the sixth inning, as the Missions took control of the game with five runs off Soddies relievers Jackson Goddard and Jake Rice.
That was the opposite of what occurred the previous night, when the Sod Poodles broke a three-game losing streak with a 9-7 victory. Left-hander Andrew Saalfrank pitched 2 2/3 innings of relief, giving up one hit and no runs to earn the victory, and Josh Green closed the door in the ninth to pick up the save.
Dave Elmore remembered
The person who is as responsible as anybody for bringing pro baseball back to Amarillo after a 37-year absence has passed, as Dave Elmore, founder of the Elmore Sports Group who owns the Sod Poodles, died on June 7 at the age of 88.
Elmore and his family own a conglomerate of minor league baseball and hockey franchises and moved the Missions from San Antonio to Amarillo in 2019, and subsequently moved the Colorado Sky Sox to San Antonio. Sod Poodles president and general manager Tony Ensor has worked for the Elmore Group for 27 years and came to Amarillo from Colorado Springs when the city was awarded a Texas League franchise.
“The Elmore family is the reason the Sod Poodles are here,” Ensor said. “Dave is the patriarch, and this is a family-owned business. Dave started everything back in the late 80s, bringing the first team from Hawaii to Colorado Springs. He is really an innovator of the game and touched a lot of lives.”
Working in smaller markets, the Elmore family took more of a grassroots approach in developing a fan base. Ensor said that starting on the ground level is what Dave Elmore impressed upon employees.
“He told the young guys under his tutelage that the numbers would take care of themselves, it’s the community you take care of,” Ensor said. “Everything we do as operators and managers begins at that community and you become part of it. Dave always instilled that in us. He was more of a father figure than a boss. Losing someone like that is very tough.”
Ensor said that he and his wife were able to spend three days visiting Dave Elmore in February.
Sod Poodles assist with Perryton tornado relief
That sense of community has shown up off the field as well for the Sod Poodles in the last week. Saturday’s scheduled theme night was Star Wars Night, where employees at Hodgetown dressed as Star Wars characters (Ensor was Tony One-Kenobi) and the team wore special Star Wars jerseys, which were auctioned off after the game.
Proceeds from the jersey auction went to the Amarillo Area Foundation Panhandle Disaster Relief Fund to assist with the tornado which devastated Perryton, as well as the recent flooding in Amarillo. There was also a Pass The Boot donation collection which occurred after a Sod Poodles home run Saturday, coming when A.J. Vukovich homered to lead off the third inning.
Second Chance Amarillo Rescue (SCAR) had originally been scheduled to benefit from the jersey auction, but it will be moved to a date later in the season.