Amarillo Sod Poodles left fielder Nick Delasandro makes a diving catch against the Midland Rockhounds on Sunday afternoon at Hodgetown. [John Moore/ For Press Pass Sports]
The first home series of the season at Hodgetown was everything people have come to expect from the Amarillo Sod Poodles.
That’s to say, it was entertaining even if the end result wasn’t what the home crowd, or the Sod Poodles themselves, really wanted.
In the rubber game of a three-game series with the Midland RockHounds on Sunday afternoon, the Soddies gave the fans free baseball by going to the 10th inning after rallying for two runs in the bottom of the ninth. But Midland answered with four runs in the top of the inning and the Sod Poodles couldn’t quite catch up, as the RockHounds won 12-10 to claim the game and the series to open the season.
After an 11-9 loss Friday in the season opener, the Sod Poodles rallied to tie the series with a more sedate 6-4 win Saturday night.
“Both teams battled to the end and they took two out of three from us but I like where we’re at,” Sod Poodles manager Shawn Roof said. “They stayed in it and fought to the end. We have a very good offensive team who strings good at-bats together. They pass the baton and in this offense we always have a chance to come back.”
For the first time in the series, the Soddies scored first, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Jancarlos Cintron walked and scored on Dominic Canzone’s double. After Midland tied it 1-1, the Sod Poodles duplicated that formula in the third with a two-out rally, as Cintron doubled and scored on Canzone’s base hit.
Canzone didn’t drive in Cintron again, but had an otherwise perfect day, going 4-for-4 with three doubles, showing why he’s the team’s No. 3 hitter.
“I think it’s more sticking with the process because the season’s a grind,” said Canzone, who also played in Amarillo last season. “You understand what you’re good at and just try to hit the ball on a line consistently. The work in the cages didn’t go great today but it doesn’t have an impact on the game. You just try to keep a level head each at-bat and try to get something done.”
Midland took a 6-2 lead with two runs in the fifth and three in the sixth before things got interesting. Canzone led off the bottom of the sixth with a double off Midland reliever Matt Milburn and Dominic Fletcher followed with a double before Leandro Cedeno crushed a three-run home run to left to cut it to 6-5.
With two outs Ti’Quan Forbes, making his debut with the Sod Poodles, hit Milburn’s first pitch the other way to right center for a solo homer to tie it 6-6.
The RockHounds took the lead in the next half-inning on Zack Gelof’s RBI single and added a run in the ninth to go up 8-6. But this being the Soddies and RockHounds at Hodgetown, it was far from over.
Forbes led off the bottom of the ninth with a single off Midland left-hander Austin Briggs, who then walked Drew Stankiewicz and Corbin Carroll to load the bases. Cintron then hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Forbes and move the other two runners up a base.
That brought up Canzone, whom the RockHounds opted to intentionally walk and reload the bases.
“It was a lefty-lefty matchup and I hadn’t seen one today but they did it and it is what it is,” said Canzone, who said he was surprised by the free pass.
In the long run, it worked for Midland. Fletcher grounded to first to bring home Stankiewicz with the tying run, then Cedeno grounded to short for the final out which brought on extra innings.
Midland started the 10th with Devin Foyle on second base as a “ghost” runner against Sod Poodles reliever Kenny Hernandez. Logan Davidson blasted the first pitch from Hernandez over the center field fence for a two-run homer to make it 10-8.
That was the first of six hits by the RockHounds off Hernandez in the inning, the most notable of which was a solo homer by Shane Selman with two outs to make it 11-8. Gelof, who had four hits in the game, capped the inning with an RBI single to make it 12-8.
It typified an up-and-down series for the Sod Poodles bullpen, who gave up nine runs in 5 1/3 innings Sunday.
“They competed just like the hitters,” Roof said of his staff. “There were some nerves out there with it being the first outing in a new ballpark. They went after guys. I think you’re absolutely establishing roles. Some of these guys are coming from higher levels so we’re just trying to see how things come together.”
With one out in the bottom of the 10th, Forbes had a two-run single to bring the tying tun to the plate against Dalton Sawyer, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Stankiewicz then grounded to short to end the game.
New face makes impact
Forbes was added to the roster immediately before the game and made an impact by going 3-for-5 and driving in three runs. He started at third base and replaced Jordan Howard, who was placed on the developmental list.
Shortstop Blaze Alexander, who homered in Saturday’s win, was placed on the injured list.
Oil Pan Cup update
The Sod Poodles and RockHounds are playing for the Oil Pan Cup which goes to the team which wins the season series and Midland has an early edge. In 2019, the Sod Poodles inaugural season, they won the cup and Midland won it last year.
Attendance so far
In three games at Hodgetown to open the season, the Sod Poodles drew 18,104 fans, averaging over 6,000 per game.