Amarillo Sod Poodles split with Springfield in first six-game home series

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Kevin Graham of the Amarillo Sod Poodles comes home to score against the Springfield Cardinals on Saturday night at Hodgetown. [David Erickson/ Press Pass Sports]
It was sort of a good news, bad news series this past week for the Amarillo Sod Poodles at Hodgetown, but the way things had started at this point of the season, it was probably more good than bad.

The Sod Poodles hosted the Springfield Cardinals in a six-game series, and the Cardinals had yet to lose a game before coming to Amarillo. That changed on Tuesday.

In a mixed bag of a series results-wise, the Sod Poodles split with Springfield and could have actually won the series. They had to settle for a split after Sunday’s 3-2 loss where they had the potential winning run-on base with no outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Nonetheless, it was a marked improvement for the Sod Poodles (5-10), who had lost both of their series to open the season and were swept in their three-game series at Hodgetown by San Antonio to open the year.

“I think the first three series of the season we played three really good teams,” Sod Poodles manager Tim Bogar said. “We came out of the gate playing San Antonio and Midland, then (the Cardinals) come in here at 9-0 and we split with them. It could have been 5-1, us. Tonight we had the bases loaded down two and we only got one in. That’s baseball.”

In a series where the teams alternated wins, the finale was that rarest of Hodgetown creatures, a pitchers’ duel. The Sod Poodles opened the scoring in the bottom of the second, when J.J. D’Orazio singled and eventually came around on a balk by Springfield starter Max Rajcic for the game’s first run.

Gerardo Gutierrez of the Amarillo Sod Poodles delivers a pitch against Springfield on Saturday. [David Erickson/ Press Pass Sports]
However, after D’Orazio’s single, the offense went cold. Rajcic went six innings and didn’t give up another hit, and for the next six innings against Rajcic and Springfield reliever Nick Raquet, the Soddies managed to reach only via a pair of walks, neither one of which even got to second base.

When reliever Matt Svanson came on in the ninth, Amarillo’s Ivan Melendez greeted him with a single to left, breaking the six-inning hitless string. Svanson hit Neyfy Castillo with a pitch, then D’Orazio singled to right on the next pitch to load the bases with no outs.

That brought to the plate Logan Warmoth, who drove in three runs in the previous game, a 9-6 win which guaranteed the Sod Poodles no worse than a series split. Warmoth, though, grounded into a double play, which brought home Melendez.

S.P. Chen then hit a ball deep toward the left field corner, but Springfield’s Chris Rotondo caught in foul territory to end the game.

“If you compare this series to the first one of the season we had here against San Antonio, it’s night and day,” said Bogar, keeping a glass-half-full approach. “We’re headed in the right direction.”

All of Springfield’s runs came in the bottom of the third off Sod Poodles starter Jamison Hill. Nathan Church led off the inning with a walk and scored on a double to left by Matt Lloyd. Jeremy Rivas eventually hit a two-run double to put the Cardinals (12-3) up 3-1, proving to be the difference in the game.

That was it offensively for Springfield, though, as Hill and relievers Logan Clayton, Conor Grammes and Mitchell Stumpo combined to hold the Cardinals scoreless over the last six innings.

“Jamison did a good job and got us into the fifth inning,” Bogar said. “If you paid attention to what he was doing when he located his pitches and was executing he was really, really good. When he didn’t execute them he left them right over the plate. It’s not thought processes or mechanics, it’s just understanding where he needs to throw his pitches.
“I think for the most part this series we got good starting pitching. I thought our bullpen was really strong. We’re staying positive with this right now.”

The Sod Poodles got off on the right foot to start the series, as they handed the Cardinals their first loss of the season, 13-9. A.J. Vukovich hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning as the Soddies went up 4-2 and went up 8-2 in the second thanks in part to a two-run home run by Deyvison De Los Santos.

Amarillo’s Ivan Melendez celebrates after hitting a home run against Springfield on Friday night at Hodgetown. [Roy Wheeler/ Press Pass Sports]

Plate experience is showing

As returning players from last season, Vukovich, Melendez and De Los Santos are being looked at to establish themselves offensively. They showed that for the most part in the series against Springfield.

Vukovich had a seven-game hitting streak through Saturday, tying him with De Los Santos for the team’s longest hitting streak of the season. That ended Sunday when Vukovich went 0-for-4.

Melendez does have a five-game hitting streak, which just stayed alive with his single in the ninth.

“They’ve been in this league now,” Bogar said. “Vuk’s been here and they know him so it’s time to make adjustments. I think he started doing that. In that first series (San Antonio) knew how to pitch him and he didn’t make very many adjustments. Since then I think he has and Melendez has been the same way.”

De Los Santos has hit in 12-of-14 games this season and is tied for the Texas League lead with four home runs. He’s hitting .333 on the season.

A player who wasn’t on the team last year, outfielder Kevin Graham, is also making an impact at the plate. Graham is hitting .412 with four multi-hit games in only nine games played.

Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that the Sod Poodles struggled so much at the plate most of Sunday, as neither De Los Santos nor Graham were in the lineup.

They’re coming back, but Soddies staying put

If you missed the Cardinals this past week, don’t worry. They’ll be back in town again July 19-21 after the four-day All-Star break at midseason.

However, the Sod Poodles won’t return the trip, as they aren’t scheduled to play at Springfield this season.

The Sod Poodles open a six-game road trip at Frisco starting Tueseday night.

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