Amarillo Sod Poodles pitcher Luis Frias celebrates after tossing the first ever no-hitter at Hodgetown on Sunday. [John Moore/ Press Pass Sports]
By turns, the Amarillo Sod Poodles have completed a Hodgetown homestand which was entertaining, nostalgic, historic and most of all, successful.
Or at least they could say that at the end of Sunday evening.
Seeking their first series win of the season at Hodgetown with their former manager now sitting in the opposing dugout, the Sod Poodles entered Sunday’s doubleheader against the San Antonio Missions needing a sweep to attain that. They got something even better.
In the first game of a twin bill featuring two seven-inning games due to a rainout Saturday night, Sod Poodles right-hander Luis Frias got off to another strong start, which has been customary for him this season. The difference this time was that he finished even stronger, throwing an abbreviated no-hitter in a 4-0 victory which assured the Soddies (33-44) no worse than a series split.
Working quickly, the Dominican Republic product walked only one and struck out six in a dominant performance.
“My fastball was working today and my secondary pitches as well,” said Frias through interpreter and Sod Poodles teammate, Jancarlos Cintron. “I was just trying to get ahead of hitters and attack them. I guess it was my night.”
The effort earned Frias, the No. 9-rated prospect of the parent club Arizona Diamondbacks, the Double-A Central Pitcher of the Week as he improved his record to 4-6.
Frias has shown potential throughout much of the season as he’s gotten off to strong starts, such as his last effort a week earlier against Frisco, when he retired 13 of the first 14 hitters he faced. But he ran into some trouble by giving up a three-run home run and a two-run shot in taking an 8-1 loss.
There were no such problems Sunday.
“He’s been on the verge of having really good stuff all year long but that one inning would really get to him,” Sod Poodles manager Shawn Roof said of Frias. “We knew at some point he was going to have an outing like this. I don’t know that we knew it would be a seven-inning no-hitter but that’s the capability this kid has. He’s got a big time arm and a big time curveball and splitter and he just really competes on the mound, so it was just really fun to watch and I was really happy for him.”
Frias showed no sign of letting up as the game progressed, and his fastball was clocked as high as 99 mph in the final two innings.
The only blots on the ledger for Frias were when Michael Curry reached after a wild pitch on a strikeout in the third, and when he walked Kelvin Melean on four pitches in the sixth. Otherwise, Frias was as dominant as a starter could be.
“I knew I had something going on when I came off in the fifth,” Frias said. “I came out of the inning with only 10 pitches and that’s when I thought I know I’ve got this. I take it day by day and today was a different day obviously.”
The no-hitter was assured when leftfielder Stone Garrett made a running catch of Ben Ruta’s fly ball in foul territory for the final out in the top of the seventh.
Frias didn’t need much support with his dominance, and the Sod Poodles did just enough offensively to win, with all their runs coming on the long ball. Buddy Kennedy led off the fourth with a homer off San Antonio starter and former major leaguer Brett Kennedy, Dominic Fletcher hit a two-run shot in the fifth and Alek Thomas capped the scoring with a solo shot in the sixth.
Coincidence or no-no?
It was the second no-hitter in franchise history, but it had a lot in common with the first. It also came on a Sunday, three weeks earlier, also against the Missions, also in a seven-inning first game of a doubleheader.
Matt Tabor pulled that one off for the Sod Poodles in a 2-0 win in San Antonio on July 11. Tabor was called up to Class AAA Reno on Saturday.
Making a good first impression
The second game of the doubleheader was somewhat anticlimactic, as the Soddies won another pitchers duel, 2-1 to earn their first season series win at home. There would be no no-hitter this time, as San Antonio’s Esteury Ruiz doubled off Sod Poodles starter Tyler Holton in the first inning and scored on Jose Azocar’s single.
That was all for Missions offensively, though, as they managed only three more hits off Holton and relievers Levi Kelly, Matt Brill and Mack Lemieux, who got the save.
The Sod Poodles tied it on Dominic Miroglio’s sacrifice fly in the fifth, then in the sixth outfielder Dominic Canzone, who was called up from Class A Hillsboro to start the series, singled home Cintron with the go-ahead run.
Canzone has hardly appeared intimidated by the move up in class. He hit safely in all five games of the series and batted .444 with a homer and four RBIs, and has three multi-hit games.
“It was definitely a process after being hurt early in the year,” Canzone said. “I’m really happy to be here. There’s great chemistry and it’s really nice to get a series win. It was definitely nice to get the hit to drive in the winning run but as far as proving myself it was never really on my mind. These guys just accepted me from the start.”
Not so happy homecoming
Sunday concluded the return to town for Missions manager Phillip Wellman, who along with Missions first baseman Kyle Overstreet was a member of the inaugural Sod Poodles squad in 2019 who won the Texas League championship.
Thanks to a realignment of minor league affiliates by the San Diego Padres, the Sod Poodles parent organization in 2019, the Class AA team moved back to San Antonio to start the season. The Sod Poodles then became the Class AA affiliate of the Diamondbacks in the Double-A Central.
After losing the first two games, the Missions fought back to tie the series with wins on Thursday and Friday, scoring seven runs in the seventh inning in a 10-3 win Thursday then winning 7-5 in 11 innings Friday.
The Soddies drew 27,083 fans over five days against the Missions, putting their attendance at 198,723 for the season.
This week, the Sod Poodles will go on the road to Frisco. They’ll return home Aug. 10 to host a six-game series with Corpus Christi, and almost assured to cross the 200,000 fan mark for the season that night.