Sod Poodles enter break dropping wildly entertaining series to San Antonio

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Eduardo Diaz celebrates after hitting a double during the Amarillo Sod Poodles game against San Antonio on Sunday at Hodgetown. [John Moore/ Press Pass Sports]

The bottom line indicates that the Amarillo Sod Poodles didn’t have a great home series at Hodgetown last week against the San Antonio Missions, but it was nonetheless quite memorable for the home fans.

That makes it seem like a rather unusual time for a break.

In an eventful and entertaining series, the Sod Poodles ended up with their first series loss of the second half of the Texas League season, falling 6-5 to the Missions on Sunday. If you wanted a capsule of what the series was about, you might have gotten it in the last at-bat with one out in the bottom of the ninth Sunday.

Juan Centeno was on first base after a leadoff single, then after Missions closer Angel Felipe struck out Tim Tawa, Nick Dalesandro lined a laser right at Missions first baseman Yorman Rodriguez, who stepped on first to double off a leaning Centeno, ending the game and allowing San Antonio to escape with a 4-2 series win.

Appropriately enough, considering the feast or famine nature of the series, Rodriguez blasted a solo home run to left off Soddies reliever Yorvin Pantoja to lead off the seventh which made the difference in the game. In a series where the long ball was predictably featured at Hodgetown, it made sense that one decided the series.

“We did some good things this week but sometimes (a series loss) like that happens when you play a good team like San Antonio,” Sod Poodles manager Shawn Roof said. “They executed and made a couple of more plays than we did. We’ll just come out and make sure everybody’s rested and healthy and ready to go when we come back.”

Following their first series loss of the second half, the Soddies will join the rest of pro baseball for the All-Star break, as they’ll be off for four days before resuming action Friday with a three-game series at TL South Division leader Midland. The Sod Poodles sit four games behind Midland in the division standings.

Four of the six games against the Missions were decided by two runs or less. The teams split the close games, with the Soddies winning 6-5 in the series opener Tuesday and 7-6 on Saturday, winning both games in their final at-bat.

San Antonio, though, won three straight games after Tuesday’s loss, guaranteeing leaving town with no worse than a series split. Two of those three wins were lopsided, as the Missions won 6-0 on Thursday, and 18-7 on Friday, as Roby Enriquez had to come in from right field to pitch the final inning of relief for the Soddies.

That’s part of the mandate from the Sod Poodles parent club Arizona Diamondbacks to limit the work of their relievers during games which get out of hand.

“We’ve had conversations with our front office about who we can use and who we shouldn’t use,” Roof said. “If someone goes down or gets hurt and we’ve got to bring in a pitcher as a position player we have those thoughts too. As a coaching staff we always have to be one step ahead in case something comes up.”

That was hardly the most notorious moment of the series. Here are the most notable moments from last week at Hodgetown.

Cedeno’s moon shot

If there’s just one moment from the series which everyone will remember, it came Saturday night. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Leandro Cedeno hit a 3-0 pitch by Missions starter Nolan Watson about halfway to Pampa, or so it seemed.

Cedeno reached up in the zone and belted a homer 527 feet to left-center, literally knocking it out of the park and over the wrought iron fence serving as Hodgetown’s boundary to tie the game. The ball landed on the fly in the parking lot between the stadium and Amarillo Civic Center.

Not surprisingly, the homer gained national attention because of its sheer magnitude. Cedeno, who leads the Sod Poodles with 18 homers and 61 RBIs, now has the longest recorded home run at any level of professional baseball since Statcast started keeping track of such things in 2015.

No one who was at Hodgetown that evening needed to look up or out to know that Cedeno had gone yard, as the sound of the ball off his bat confirmed it instantly.

“I have never seen a ball hit like that,” Roof said. “Actually, I put my head down and looked into the dugout and didn’t even see it land. It was on social media, and it was really cool for the Sod Poodles got that notoriety, especially Cedeno. He’s had a great year.

“You knew it was gone right away. It was just a matter of how far it was going to go.”

Going oppo helps Forbes

While Cedeno’s Concorde to left-center left everyone talking, it wasn’t even the Soddies homer which had the biggest impact on the game. That came with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and the score tied 6-6.

TiQuan Forbes faced Missions reliever Jose Quezada and got down in the count 0-2. Forbes then lined a pitch the opposite way to right field, depositing it on the grass berm for a solo homer to give the Sod Poodles a 7-6 lead, which reliever Blake Rogers made hold up by pitching a 1-2-3 ninth.

Hodgetown’s main power alley generally runs to Bar 352 in left field, especially for right-handed hitters who disturb the beer consumption. Forbes, though, has proven the exception, as he’s homered more than once the other way to right, giving the youngsters who occupy the berm a chance for a souvenir.

“I called my shot and said I’m just trying to hit it (to right),” Forbes said. “(Quezada) gave me a good pitch to do it and I just stuck with it and it went over. That’s my swing and it’s just natural for me.”

Cedeno is the best example of a right-handed pull hitter taking advantage of Hodgetown’s prevailing winds to left field to knock it out of the park. That’s not necessarily part of the approach Forbes takes at home.

“It’s good thing to do because it’s a short porch and the wind still carries out there,” Forbes said of going to right field. “(Pitchers) stay outside to right-handed hitters because they know this park and going to left field can be dangerous, so I work my swing that way.”

From both sides

There were few good things to come from Friday’s rout for the Sod Poodles, but two of them came from shortstop Drew Stankiewicz.

The switch-hitting Stankiewicz hit a two-run homer to left field batting right-handed in the fourth inning to briefly tie the game. Then with two outs in the eighth, Stankiewicz, batting from the left side, hit solo homer to right.

That made Stankiewicz the third Sod Poodle in three years to homer from both sides of the plate in the same game. He joins Buddy Reed in 2019 and Michael De La Cruz in 2021 in accomplishing the feat.

Taking a break

This week is uncharted territory since in the Texas League teams have generally played six-game series, taking Monday off and playing Tuesday through Sunday. Now they’ll all be off through Friday before resuming action with three-game series, an exception to the schedule.

This will be a chance for players to recover, especially considering the grind of the schedule.

“Just rest and relax,” said Roof of advice to his team. “Stay safe whether it’s here or you go back home. Get yourself away from baseball and let your body and head rest and reset.”

Roof is returning home to Erie, Pa.  but isn’t taking a break from baseball. He’s going to watch his six-year-old son Easton play in coach pitch, a rare opportunity to watch him play in person.

“I just want to see him out there play around in the dirt and have fun,” Roof said. “My wife is actually way more fired up about it. She gets upset when he doesn’t hit the ball or the kids don’t play well. I have to remind her that they’re just six years old.”

Former Soddies return

In 2019 the Sod Poodles were the Double A affiliate of the San Diego Padres and won the Texas League title in their inaugural season. But in late 2020, after COVID knocked out the entire minor league season, the Padres pulled out of Amarillo and moved their TL affiliation back to San Antonio, meaning some familiar faces from that first season were back in town again.

Most notable was manager Phillip Wellman, who led the Soddies that first year. The best game for any former Sod Poodle came Friday, as Webster Rivas, who played first base and catcher in 2019 before a call up to El Paso, went 4-for-6 with a homer and seven RBIs. Rivas, who has played for the Padres, was a triple short of the cycle.

Sunday, Lake Bachar, a starter for the Soddies in 2019, pitched 1/3 of an inning in relief and gave up a game-tying run, but ended up getting the win.

 

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