Amarillo, TX - The Amarillo Sod Poodles defeated the San Antonio Missions for the third straight game on Thursday night at HODGETOWN by a final score of 8-5.
No. 11 Diamondbacks prospect RHP Slade Cecconi was on the mound for his third start of the year to face LHP Gabe Morales of San Antonio. Cecconi entered the game with a 1.00 ERA with one earned run allowed all season, but the Missions attacked him early and often.
After recording a pop-out on the first pitch, the next San Antonio batter laced a ball down the first baseline that bounced around in the San Antonio bullpen, resulting in a triple. Brandon Dixon scored the runner on an RBI groundout, putting the Missions up 1-0 in the top of the 1st.
Cecconi bounced back with a 1-2-3 2nd and got off to a good start in the top of the 3rd, retiring the first two batters with a pop-out and a strikeout. The next two batters reached on a single and a double, and Cecconi issued a walk to load the bases. Yorman Rodriguez then made it a 3-0 Missions lead with a 2-RBI bloop single, and Tirso Ornelas made it a four-run lead with an RBI single.
Trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the 3rd, Blaze Alexander and Nick Dalesandro led off the inning with back-to-back walks. Jancarlos Cintron laid down a bunt to advance the runners, but hustled down the line and dove into first to beat the tag for a bases-loading single. Eduardo Diaz then entered the batter's box and unloaded the bases with a 3-RBI triple over the head of the center fielder to make the score 4-3.
With one out, Dominic Canzone put a bouncing ball in play in the infield. Diaz took off from third and scored on an RBI fielder’s choice to tie the game at 4-4. The throw home to try and nab him went awry, and Canzone advanced to second on the fielder’s choice and throwing error. A groundout advanced him to third, but he was stranded after an inning-ending strikeout.
Cecconi retired the first two batters in the 4th, but put a runner in scoring position with a two-out double. Esteury Ruiz popped a high fly ball into shallow center field which looked like it would end the inning, but Alexander dropped the ball and the runner scored to give the Missions a 5-4 lead off the error.
Ti’Quan Forbes led off the bottom of the 4th with a single, and Alexander followed him with a walk. Both runners were stranded, however, as the next three Soddies were retired in order.
With a run already scored in three separate innings, the Missions put another runner on base in the 5th with a one-out single. Cecconi then picked up his fourth strikeout for out number two, but a throwing error on a single put runners at the corners. Cecconi was then relieved by Justin Lewis, ending his night at 4.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB and 4 K on 80 pitches. Lewis struck out the first batter he faced to escape the inning scoreless.
The Sod Poodles took their first lead of the game in the bottom of the 5th, flexing their power with three home runs. Canzone tied the game at five with a 447-foot solo shot to center field, and Andy Yerzy gave Amarillo the lead two batters later with a two-run home run to left field. Not to be left out of the fun, Alexander made it an 8-5 game with a solo home run to left field. The three-HR inning was Amarillo’s second of the season.
Newly on the hook for the win, Lewis reclaimed the mound in the 6th and retired three batters in a row after a leadoff walk. The Soddies went down quietly in the bottom, 1-2-3.
Blake Rogers relieved Lewis in the 7th. He set down all three batters he faced with two strikeouts. Dominic Fletcher reached on a single in the bottom of the inning, and Yerzy joined him on the base path with a walk. Both were left stranded after an inning-ending double play.
Keegan Curtis relieved Rogers to kick off the 8th. He allowed a leadoff walk followed by single but retired the next two batters. Looking to get out of the jam on a 2-2 count, Esteury Ruiz hit a shallow fly ball to center field, where a charging Fletcher made a highlight, full-extension diving grab to preserve the lead.
With a three-run lead in the top of the 9th, Junior Garcia came on in a save situation for Amarillo. The leadoff runner reached on a first-pitch bunt single, but Garcia retired the next three to earn his third save of the season, giving the Soddies an 8-5 victory.
San Antonio out-hit Amarillo 10-7 and both teams committed two errors. The Sod Poodles bullpen was excellent in 4.1 innings of relief, striking out four without allowing a run. Seven Sod Poodles recorded a hit, and Diaz led the way with 3 RBI. Lewis (1-0) earned the win, and Rogers and Curtis were each credited with a hold.
Game four is set for tomorrow, Friday, April 22 at HODGETOWN with first pitch set for 7:05 PM. Amarillo will have RHP Bryce Jarvis (1-0, 3.38 ERA) on the mound to face RHP Matt Waldron (0-1, 5.59 ERA) for the Missions.
Offense Got Your Back: After a blistering start to 2022, Slade Cecconi was roughed up in his third start of the season. After allowing just two runs (one earned) with an 11:1 K/BB ratio in his first two starts, the Missions jumped on him for a season-high eight hits and five runs (four earned). The eight hits were the most Cecconi has ever allowed in his 15 career starts, and the five runs allowed are tied for the second-most in a start in his career. Despite the stat line, the offense came to life once he was relieved to secure the victory.
Homer Happy: After hitting nine home runs through the first nine games, the Sod Poodles have now hit eight home runs in their last three games. The long bombs have come off the bats of six different players, with Juan Centeno and Dominic Canzone each blasting two. Canzone hit the longest HR in HODGETOWN history with a 504-foot shot on Tuesday, and Blaze Alexander hit the second-shortest of the season on Thursday night, poking one 355 feet over the left-field wall. The Sod Poodles have scored 16 runs off of the recent home runs.
Yerzy Goes Yard: First baseman/catcher Andy Yerzy went yard for the first time in 2022 with his go-ahead two-run home run in the 5th. Highly touted for his power, Yerzy finished tied for third in the Arizona farm system in 2021 with 21 HR. Yerzy has been hitting long bombs since 2015, when he was named co-champion of the MLB Junior HR Derby at the 2015 MLB All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Late Inning Lockdown: LHP Junior Garcia shut down the Missions to record his third save of the season. He has allowed just two earned runs through his first four appearances, but both of those came in the same game on April 14 against Tulsa. The Sod Poodles pitching staff has been excellent at preserving late-inning leads this season. Amarillo is 5-1 when leading after six innings, 6-1 when leading after seven, and 6-0 when leading after eight.
Fast-ball: After finishing last night’s game in a season-record 2 hours and 33 minutes, the Soddies and Missions topped the record with a season-low 2-hour and 29-minute game time tonight. The shortest nine-inning game at HODGETOWN in 2021 lasted 2 hours and 21 minutes on June 29 against Wichita, topping the all-time record of 2 hours and 22 minutes set on July 5, 2019, against Frisco. The longest home game this season lasted 3 hours and 52 minutes on April 8 Opening Day against Frisco, and the longest all-time game lasted 4 hours and 8 minutes on September 11, 2021, against Tulsa.