Amarillo Sod Poodles split recent homestand with Frisco

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Cole Percival of the Amarillo Sod Poodles delivers a pitch against Frisco during a game at Hodgetown on Friday night. [David Erickson/ Press Pass Sports]
The Amarillo Sod Poodles still couldn’t quite get over that hump that would have given them their first series win of the season at Hodgetown on Sunday, but they showed a lot of things which could give them a series win before too long.

After a disastrous doubleheader Thursday against the Frisco RoughRiders, the Sod Poodles got three straight outstanding starting pitching performances which yielded two wins. That’s not to say they shouldn’t have gotten a third in their series finale, as Yilber Diaz threw 6 1/3 strong innings but still drew a no-decision as the Soddies lost 3-2 to settle for a series split, winning three and losing three.

Cole Percival had the first tremendous start of the week on Friday, going 7 2/3 innings and walking none in a 9-1 victory. Dylan File followed that up Saturday by scattering six hits and giving up two runs but settling for a no-decision in a 4-3 victory.

Combined with what Diaz did on Sunday, that’s as strong a 1-2-3 punch as the Sod Poodles (16-23) have thrown at an opponent this season.

“That’s the best stretch of starting pitching we’ve had and that’s the key,” Sod Poodles manager Tim Bogar said. “We had three no-walk games and I don’t think anybody else in the (Arizona Diamondbacks) organization has that. Our guys are doing what we’re teaching them. (Pitching coach) Tommy (Gorzellany) preaches throw strikes, that we can give up solo homers and we’re not going to lose.”

Dylan File of the Amarillo Sod Poodles throws a pitch against Frisco on Saturday. [Joe Garcia III/ Press Pass Sports]
Percival, File and Diaz didn’t walk a single batter in over 20 innings, a major reason they had at least a major chance to win the last three games. That’s also a huge reason why they gave up only seven runs over the last three games after giving up 26 in their first three.

Diaz in particular deserves a better fate, as his 1-4 record is misleading. In his second start of the series after a no-decision in Tuesday’s series opener, he gave up a run in the first when left fielder Wilderd Patino lost a fly ball by Liam Hicks in the sun, allowing Kellen Strahm to score and give Frisco (24-14) a 1-0 lead.

However, that was all Diaz gave up for a long time. He retired 19 of the next 20 batters, including 13 straight before Josh Hatcher blasted a solo home run to left to tie the game 2-2, at which point Diaz was pulled.

“I’m very, very pleased with our starting pitching,” Bogar said. “What it does is keeps out pen sharp, too. The guys got a week off basically from having to throw too many innings so I’m happy with that.”

For the most part, the bullpen also threw well to close the series. The only real hiccup came Sunday in the eighth inning, when with the score tied, Will Mabrey committed a balk which allowed Strahm to score from third with what turned out to be the winning run.

That gave the Soddies a disappointing ending to the series and denied them a series win, but it was a major step-up from what happened Thursday.

Mother Nature intervened Wednesday night, as after over 90 minutes of rain the game was canceled, forcing a doubleheader featuring two seven-inning games to be scheduled for Thursday. Results-wise it might have been the toughest single day of the season for the Sod Poodles, as Frisco beat them by a 10-2 score in both games.

“The doubleheader we just didn’t show up in any aspect,” Bogar said. “We’ve been preaching to these guys play baseball and make the plays you’re supposed to make, make the pitches you’re supposed to make and we’ll be in it at the end. That’s all we’re trying to do every night. We’re not trying to dominate games; we’re just trying to be in them at the end.”

Ivan Melendez of the Amarillo Sod Poodles sprints for third base on Friday night. [David Erickson/ Press Pass Sports]

Melendez delivers back home

The series got off to a rousing start Tuesday, when the Sod Poodles played their only scheduled matinee weekday game of the season with an 11 a.m. start. After a week in Corpus Christi, nobody seemed happier to be back home than third baseman Ivan Melendez, who showed off his prodigious power.

Melendez went 4-for-5 with two homers and four RBIs in a 7-6 win in 10 innings. Naturally, he provided the winning run in the bottom of the 10th with a two-run double off the left-centerfield wall.

“I was definitely looking forward to playing in our ballpark,” Melendez said. “Just knowing we were playing Corpus Christi, it was real muggy and humid. You have to really crush a ball to hit a homer. We saw a lot of balls really get smoked to right-center hit over 110 mph and not get close to leaving the yard.”

The series began and ended with daytime games for the Sod Poodles, something else which seems to agree with Melendez. Sunday, he provided the only runs of the game for the Soddies with a two-run bomb to center which gave them a short-lived 2-1 lead.

Tuesday afternoon, Melendez started the scoring with an opposite field homer to right center, then tied it 5-5 with another solo blast to center, eventually resulting in extra innings.

“I know when we have 6 or 7 p.m. games here for the first two innings we’re dealing with some shade and shadows so we really don’t get the bats around until about the third at-bat,” said Melendez, who also played in Hodgetown the second half of last season. “That’s kind of the trend I’ve been noticing. A bunch of got back after that 12-hour bus ride looking forward to this.”

Caleb Roberts, right, celebrates after hitting a walk-off home run for the Amarillo Sod Poodles on Saturday night at Hodgetown. [Joe Garcia III/ Press Pass Sports]

Roberts walk-off guarantees series split

The Melendez double to win the first game was only the first walk-off win of the series for the Sod Poodles, and it wasn’t the most dramatic. That moment came courtesy of Caleb Roberts on Saturday night.

Extra innings again seemed inevitable, as the Soddies and RoughRiders were tied 3-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth. Frisco reliever Florencio Serrano retired the first two hitters before Roberts came to the plate as the last chance for the Sod Poodles to win in regulation.

Roberts worked the count before lining Serrano’s offering onto the berm over the right-field fence to give the Sod Poodles their second walk-off win of the week. It was the second homer of the season for Roberts, who spent a part of the season on the injured list, and the first walk-off homer for the Sod Poodles since A.J. Vukovich pulled off the truck on Aug. 29 of last season against Midland.

While Roberts didn’t get a hit Sunday, it wasn’t really his fault. He drew three walks and was hit by a pitch in four plate appearances.

Back on the road again

The rest of this month, Amarillo fans won’t be able to see the Sod Poodles at Hodgetown. That’s because they’re headed on the road for two weeks starting Tuesday for their longest road trip of the season.

They’ll open the trip with another early start, beginning their six-game series at Northwest Arkansas with an 11:05 a.m. start Tuesday. The Sod Poodles will stay in Arkansas the next week for another six-game series, this one against the Arkansas Travelers.

June 4 marks the Sod Poodles return to Hodgetown, as they’ll host a six-game series against the Tulsa Drillers.

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