Amarillo Sod Poodles split home series with Tulsa

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Caleb Roberts of the Amarillo Sod Poodles celebrates with teammates after hitting a home run against the Tulsa Drillers on Saturday. [John E. Moore/ Press Pass Sports]
Straddling the fine line between an entertaining and successful home series was the theme for the Amarillo Sod Poodles last week against the Tulsa Drillers at Hodgetown.

After two weeks on the road in Arkansas, the Soddies returned home for what might have been their most eventful series at Hodgetown of 2024. They had a chance to score their first home series win of the season Sunday, but fell hard to the Drillers 15-2, leaving them with another Hodgetown series split.

It was hardly a conventional series by any stretch, as Thursday’s scheduled game was rained out, necessitating a doubleheader Friday consisting of two seven-inning games. In their three wins, the Sod Poodles (26-31) got solid pitching performances but sandwiched in between two of them were two losses by a combined 29-5 margin.

Following a 17-54 loss in Friday’s first game, the Soddies won their next two games 6-1 and 6-3 to set themselves up for a home series win. Those plans went out the window Sunday.

Sod Poodles manager Tim Bogar preferred to see the glass as half full at the end of the series.

“I like to look at it over a bigger picture,” Bogar said. “I think we’ve been playing pretty good baseball in the last three or four weeks, but every once in a while, you’re going to have clunkers and that’s just part of it.”

Jancarlos Cintron of the Amarillo Sod Poodles turns a double play against Tulsa during a Friday game at Hodgetown. [John E. Moore/ Press Pass Sports]
Through two innings Sunday, the Soddies looked like they had at least an even chance of taking the series against the Drillers (28-29). Sod Poodles starter Cole Percival and Tulsa’s Jared Karros matched zeros and a third straight solid pitching outing at the very least looked likely.

In the top of the third, though, Percival gave up consecutive singles to Brendon Davis and Brandon Lewis, batting at the bottom of Tulsa’s lineup. Singles by Taylor Young and Dalton Rushing brought home two runs to give the Drillers a 2-0 lead.

Percival did solid enough damage control, recording consecutive strikeouts to end the inning and leaving two runners stranded. However, he threw 41 pitches that inning and had 78 for the game, leading to an earlier than planned exit.

“He threw too many pitches in that last inning to keep going,” Bogar said of Percival. “His velocity was down tonight and it was his second time pitching two times in a week. His stuff wasn’t playing as well as the first time through against (the Drillers) and they’re a good hitting team. You make mistakes against them, they’re going to do some damage.”

As it was, Percival didn’t absorb most of that damage. The brunt of that came in the fourth against Soddies reliever John Matthews, who retired just one of the seven batters he faced, as he gave up two hits, walked three and hit a batter before he was lifted, resulting in a 7-0 deficit.

Left-hander Jake Rice threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings, and the Soddies looked as if they still might have had a chance when Luke Albright opened the sixth by striking out the first two batters. But Albright gave up a single and a walk before Jose Ramos blasted a home run to left field to make it 10-0 and end any illusions of a comeback.

At the plate, the Sod Poodles were having trouble making contact against Karros, as they got only one hit off him in five innings. S.P. Chen was the hitting star of the day for the Soddies, driving in both their runs with a double in the seventh and a single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

“We’ve got to put the ball in play more often,” Bogar said. “We swing and miss too much. We need to stay in the zone and got to change our approach a little bit to stay within our capabilities. We’re first in league in strikeouts and last in the league in walks and that’s not a good combination for scoring runs.”

Billy Corcoran of the Amarillo Sod Poodles was recently named the Texas League Pitcher of the Week. [John E. Moore/ Press Pass Sports]

Billy the kid

What’s developed over the last two weeks which came through again at Hodgetown last week has been right-hander Billy Corcoran. Since getting called up by the parent club Arizona Diamondbacks Class A affiliate Hillsboro less than a month ago, Corcoran has adapted to Class AA ball quickly.

Corcoran entered last week’s return home as the Texas League’s Pitcher of the Week for two stellar starts against Arkansas. With a little bit of luck, Corcoran, who’s 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA, would have three straight wins instead of one win and two no-decisions.

Saturday night Corcoran again threw well enough for a victory. In six innings he struck out seven and gave up three hits and left with a one-run lead.

Tulsa scored an unearned run off reliever Francisco Morales, making his Amarillo debut, tying the game and taking the decision away from Corcoran. It ended well, though, as Tim Tawa hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to make the difference in a 6-3 win, giving Morales the win after a solid two-inning relief outing.

“It’s better baseball up here in Double A,” Corcoran said. “My first outing I didn’t do too well and I knew I had to make some adjustments. The coaching staff and the catchers and the defense behind me have all done a great job helping me to adjust to this level of baseball. You really can’t take a day off here.”

Both of Corcoran’s wins have come on the road, but he deserved to get a W at Hodgetown on Saturday. It was as good as any starting pitching performance of the series for the Sod Poodles.

Corcoran seems to have learned the lessons from those around him regarding pitching at Hodgetown.

“You definitely have to keep the ball down and you have to keep hitters from hitting those fly balls from finding a way out of the park,” Corcoran said. “Even though I didn’t get the win tonight, the team got the win, which is way more important than my W, so it’s fun to celebrate with the guys. I don’t know if I expected this level of success this early on.”

As far as Bogar is concerned, what Corcoran has done isn’t surprising.

“I expected exactly what we got,” Bogar said. “He was really good down in Hillsboro. All the reports I got told is exactly what I’m seeing. He commands his breaking ball and he can work both sides of the plate. He spots his fastball and gets ahead of hitters.”

Corcoran has four straight quality starts in Amarillo, as in 25 innings he’s given up only nine hits and three earned runs with 21 strikeouts and a 1.08 ERA.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles delighted fans with drone shows on Friday and Saturday night at Hodgetown. [John E. Moore/ Press Pass Sports]

Lighting up the sky

On the night Corcoran pitched, the Sod Poodles drew a season-high 7,242 fans. That number was due in large part to the second of two straight drone light shows which were held beyond the centerfield wall.

Saturday night, the theme was Route 66 Night, with the computer-controlled drones putting up images associated with the mother road, such as the cars buried at Cadillac Ranch. Sky Elements of Dallas conducted the show, while the storyboard ideas and music were supervised by the Sod Poodles staff.

Sod Poodles president and general manager Tony Ensor said that the promotion was the most expensive event in the five years of the franchise’s history.

“Once we knew we wanted to put on  the event our job was to go out and find great partners like Amarillo National Bank, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Rush Eye Care,” Ensor said. “Those were the guys who made it happen. I was so proud of our staff to be able to put that on and grateful to Sky Elements. Over 14,000 people came out here those two nights. Really, it was a very, very special weekend in Amarillo.”

Ensor said that next season the club plans to have another light show at a date to be determined.

Cole Percival is the son of former California/ Anaheim Angel pitcher Troy Percival. [John E. Moore/ Press Pass Sports]

The next generation

Sunday’s game was the second matchup of the week on the mound between Percival and Karros. In Tuesday’s series opener, Percival threw six innings and got the win in a pitchers’ duel, 4-2, so the win by Karros on Sunday gave the pitchers a spilt against each other.

The rematch might not be the only reason their names became familiar with fans. Both are sons of former major league standouts, as Percival’s father is Troy, who notched 358 saves as a closer, mostly with the California/Anaheim Angels, and Karros’ father is Eric, a former Los Angeles Dodgers (Tulsa’s parent club) first baseman who was the 1992 National League Rookie of the Year.

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