The Amarillo Sod Poodles had to take care of business on the road this past week to make sure they got one final show in front of their home fans this next week.
After losing the first game of their Texas League South Division Championship series against the San Antonio Missions at Hodgetown last Tuesday, the Sod Poodles were in the position of having to sweep the Missions in San Antonio to accomplish a victory in the best-of-three series. Missions completed.
The Soddies tied the series with a 7-4-win Thursday, then advanced to the Texas League Championship series with a 6-3-win Friday for a 2-1 series victory. They’ll stay on the road for the first game of the championship series, going to Little Rock, Ark. to face the TL North Division champion Arkansas Travelers at 1:35 p.m. Sunday.
There will then be at least one more chance to catch the Sod Poodles at Hodgetown, as they’ll host the second game at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, with a third game if necessary scheduled for the same time Wednesday.
That means that last Tuesday’s 12-11 game one loss to San Antonio in 10 innings isn’t the last Amarillo will see of the Sod Poodles in 2023. The Soddies sent notice that they’re literally as tough an out as anybody with a couple of late-inning homers which extended the game but couldn’t quite pull-out victory.
“We always feel like we have a chance to come back,” Roof said. “It’s an offense that continues to put together good at-bats. That’s just playoff baseball. It was a fun game but we came up just a little bit short.”
That wasn’t the case in the final two games, where the Sod Poodles weren’t quite as prolific offensively but compensated for it with solid pitching. Yilber Diaz, a recent call-up, had his second straight solid start on the mound, giving up two runs in 5 1/3 innings to get the win, as relievers Emailin Montilla, Christian Montes De Oca and Jake Rice went the rest of the way to close out the win.
Seth Beer, whose solo homer in the ninth on Tuesday sent the game to extra innings and Caleb Roberts, who hit two homers Tuesday, including a three-run shot in the 10th to close the deficit to a run, homered again in game two. Deyvison De Los Santos had the big game at the plate with two hits and three RBIs.
It was appropriate that Beer and De Los Santos again got things going in game three, as their back-to-back doubles in the fourth made it 2-1 and the Sod Poodles never trailed again. Kristian Robinson and Tim Tawa had RBI singles later in the game for insurance, as the Soddies went with a “bullpen” game, where all relievers threw and nobody went more than three innings, as Michel Otanez and Taylor Rashi threw two scoreless innings each to close out the win.
That was the opposite of game one, where the Sod Poodles used six pitchers with varying degrees of effectiveness. Dylan Ray, who threw five shutout innings a week earlier in Hodgetown as the Soddies clinched the second half South Division title, struggled against the Missions, giving up four homers in 3 2/3 innings as the Sod Poodles fell behind 6-1.
“He probably overthrew a little bit and was amped up,” said Roof of Ray. “He left a few too many pitches over the plate against a good hitting team and they made him pay. Obviously, it’s a learning experience where you have to continue to make pitches and execute.”
Ray would appear to be a likely candidate to throw either Sunday at Arkansas or Tuesday at Hodgetown.
The Sod Poodles let Ray off the hook for the loss as Robinson and Roberts both hit two-run homers to eventually tie it after six innings. San Antonio scored an unearned run in the eighth to reclaim the lead before Beer’s homer in the ninth forced extra innings.
But the Missions would score five in the top of the 10th, capped by Marcos Castanon’s mammoth three-run homer to left off Raffi Vizcaino to make it 12-7. The Sod Poodles weren’t done, though, as Roberts hit a three-run opposite field shot to left to cut it to 12-11 before A.J. Vukovich flew out to the warning track in right to end it.