Bats struggle for Amarillo Sod Poodles in series loss to Midland

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Ivan Melendez of the Amarillo Sod Poodles throws to first base during the game against Midland on Friday at Hodgetown. [John E. Moore/ Press Pass Sports]
Less than a month into the season, it appears as if the Amarillo Sod Poodles are still negotiating their way around home.

During the final three games of their series against the Midland RockHounds at Hodgetown this past week, the Sod Poodles had a hard time supporting the park’s reputation as a hitter’s paradise.

They suffered consecutive shutouts at home on Friday and Saturday for the first time in Hodgetown history and had 20 consecutive scoreless innings heading into Sunday’s series finale.

The Soddies ended that streak in a hurry with three runs in the first inning to get out ahead of the RockHounds for the first time since Thursday night. But that didn’t last, as Midland took the lead for good in the fourth inning and went on to win 7-4 to win the series by a 4-2 count.

After splitting consecutive series, the Sod Poodles (8-15) dropped their series against the RockHounds (15-8), who also beat the Soddies by a 4-2 margin down in Midland earlier in April. Those numbers are indicators of a team still searching for an identity.

“I think we’re growing and doing some things well, we just need to show up every day with the same attitude and persistence,” Sod Poodles manager Tim Bogar said. “I know we’ve faced some really good teams so far the first part of the season. We’ve shown flashes of doing some really good things. Two games this series we basically dominated them, the other four we struggled.”

Struggles were temporarily forgotten in the bottom of the first Sunday. With one out, Logan Warmoth reached on an error then scored on a double by Caleb Roberts which resulted in a 1-0 lead, marking the first runs the Soddies had scored since their 4-0-win Thursday, followed by 8-0 and 6-0 losses.

Things looked even better when Tim Tawa belted a two-run home run to left to make it 3-0. That homer made Tawa – temporarily – the franchise’s career leader in homers with 31.

Ironically, Tawa had been hitting leadoff prior to Sunday, when Bogar shook up the lineup by hitting A.J. Vukovich leadoff and bumping Tawa to No. 5 in the lineup. It worked for a bit.

“It’s partly shaking things up and it’s partly certain guys have to have certain days off and it’s part of development,” Bogar said. “When that happens you have to construct your lineup in a way which is going to give them opportunities, and I felt Vuk at the top of the lineup could get something going and give him an extra at-bat during the game.”

However, over the next four innings, the Soddies got nothing off Midland starter J.T. Ginn. They had only one hit and got just one runner to third base.

On the mound, right-hander Logan Clayton, making his second start of the series, retired the first six hitters he faced. But he gave up a two-run homer to Denzel Clarke in the third and a three-run shot to Junior Perez in the fourth, giving Midland the lead for good at 5-3 getting pulled.

Reliever Alec Baker fared little better, walking three straight batters and giving up a two-run single to Cooper Bowman to make it 7-3. The silver lining was that relievers Zach Barnes, Jake Rice, John Matthews and Gerardo Gutierrez combined to close out the game by throwing five scoreless innings.

Deyvison De Los Santos led off the sixth with a homer to left off Ginn, which tied him with Tawa for the franchise career lead in homers, cutting the lead to 7-4.

That was as close as they got, though, as they didn’t put another runner on until Kristian Robinson and S.P. Chen had back-to-back two-out singles in the ninth. However, Midland reliever Shohei Tomioka struck out pinch-hitter Kevin Graham to end it.

Tim Tawa of the Amarillo Sod Poodles became the franchise leader in home runs with 31 this past week. [John E. Moore/ Press Pass Sports]

Tawa finds stroke

As one of several returning hitters from last season, Tawa has been expected to lead the way at the plate, and he did that in the series against Midland.

In Tuesday’s series-opening 14-4 loss, Tawa hit a solo homer in the fourth inning, tying him with Leandro Cedeno for the franchise record at 30, and finished a triple short of the cycle. Tawa had two singles and scored two runs in the next night’s 7-3 win.

“I was told by a teammate after I did it and I didn’t know about it, so that was pretty cool especially being up there with Cedeno, who was a teammate and great friend while he was here,” said Tawa, who played with Cedeno in 2022. “I’m sure it will be broken soon by somebody.”

The question is whether it will be Tawa or De Los Santos who will be on top of the list, especially since both are candidates to be pulled up to the Sod Poodles major league parent club Arizona Diamondbacks’ Class AAA affiliate in Reno. That’s where Tawa started the season, playing nine games before he was called back to Amarillo on April 10.

“You get called up to a certain level and compete and do the best you can and let the organization make those decisions,” Tawa said. “When I was up there I wasn’t thinking about am I coming back (to Amarillo) or going somewhere else, I was thinking about playing the best baseball I could. It’s nice to get the exposure to a different level of baseball.”

Deyvison De Los Santos was named the Texas League Player of the Month for April. [John E. Moore/ Press Pass Sports]

De Los Santos named TL’s best for April

If there was one Sod Poodle who wasn’t thrilled to see May start from a personal aspect, it was De Los Santos. Sitting at or near the top of most of the league’s hitting categories, De Los Santos was named the Texas League Player of the Month for April.

De Los Santos started the first month of the season hot for the Sod Poodles. He began the season with a seven-game hitting streak, hitting .376 for the month, as his 32 hits, seven home runs and 58 total bases led the league for April.

Mario Lopez walks across the field before the game between the Midland RockHounds and the Amarillo Sod Poodles on Sunday. [John E. Moore/ Press Pass Sports]

Lopez celebrates Cinco de Mayo at Hodgetown

Cinco de Mayo took on a festive edge Sunday when Mario Lopez, star of “Saved By The Bell” and host of “Extra” and “Access Hollywood” came to town to promote his Casa Mexico tequila as part of the holiday celebration.

Lopez appeared with several mariachi dancers on the field prior to the game and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. This was his first trip to Amarillo and first time promoting his spirit at a minor league stadium.

“The people have been really nice and supportive,” Lopez said. “I went over to Party Stop and did a whole signature and was there for a few hours. I’ve had a great time in Amarillo. It being Cinco de Mayo, of course it’s a perfect holiday for tequila. Everyone’s Mexican this weekend just like everyone’s Irish for St. Patrick’s Day.”

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