Amarillo, Texas (September 26, 2023) – The Amarillo Sod Poodles returned to HODGETOWN for Game 2 of the Texas League Championship Series against the Arkansas Travelers. After a back-and-forth affair that saw the Sod Poodles erase a four-run deficit, the Arkansas Travelers forced a winner-take-all game three of the Texas
Amarillo, Texas (September 26, 2023) – The Amarillo Sod Poodles returned to HODGETOWN for Game 2 of the Texas League Championship Series against the Arkansas Travelers. After a back-and-forth affair that saw the Sod Poodles erase a four-run deficit, the Arkansas Travelers forced a winner-take-all game three of the Texas League Championship Series.
Yilber Diaz worked quickly through the top of the Arkansas order in the first, ending the opening frame with his first strikeout of the night. Two pitches into the bottom of the inning, Camden Duzenack put the Sod Poodles in front. The Amarillo leadoff man hit his first home run of the postseason to give Amarillo a 1-0 lead. With each of the next two batters reaching, Amarillo was unable to build on the lead for Diaz as he headed back to the mound for the second.
Despite the Travs' first hit coming with two away, the D-backs' no. 20-rated prospect held Arkansas to another zero on the scoreboard with a groundout ending the inning. A 1-2-3 bottom of the second had Diaz right back to work where he proceeded to strike out each of the first two he faced in the top of the third. The young right-hander worked around the second straight inning with a two-out baserunner by picking up his fifth strikeout of the night to leave another Arkansas baserunner stranded.
The Travs took a lead in the top of the fourth, using back-to-back home runs to jump ahead 2-1 with their first two batters of the inning. Following getting the first out of the inning, the second hit batter by Diaz for the game put a runner aboard for Arkansas and was followed by a free pass. A much-needed double play kept Arkansas from extending their advantage and sent the Sod Poodles offense back to work trailing by a run in the bottom of the fourth.
Caleb Roberts drew his second walk in as many at-bats ahead of A.J. Vukovich wearing a pitch off the hip to move the potential tying run for Amarillo into scoring position. Similar to the first, the Sod Poodles were unable to push a run across with a runner on second and nobody out as Diaz went back to the rubber to start the fifth. Following Diaz's sixth strikeout of the night, a walk, single, and two-out walk loaded the bases and sent Shawn Roof out of the third base dugout to go get his starter. The first reliever used by either team in Game 2 of the Championship Series was Raffi Vizcaino. A single back up the middle tacked on another two runs for Arkansas before a balked-in run and strikeout got Amarillo out of the inning trailing 5-1.
Juan Centeno got the crowd back involved with Amarillo's second solo shot of the night and the Sod Poodles first hit since the first inning. Jancarlos Cintron followed it up with a double down the right-field line to chase Arkansas starter Blas Castano. Fellow right-hander Travis Kuhn took over on the mound for Arkansas and Amarillo played small ball to move Cintron to third with a Tim Tawa RBI groundout bringing the Sod Poodles back within two runs. Vizcaino tossed a clean inning, working around a leadoff walk with the help of a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play. A fly out to dead center field sent the bats back to work with the 4-5-6 hitters due up to face Peyton Alford making his second Double-A appearance. Vukovich grounded out ahead of Seth Beer getting plunked and a Deyvison De Los Santos broken-bat single to put another runner at second base for Amarillo. Two more strikeouts left another two stranded in the bottom of the sixth.
A walk and a strikeout brought an end to Vizcaino's night with Jake Rice taking over pitching duties for Amarillo. A free pass to the first batter Rice faced was quickly taken off the bases with Rice inducing an inning-ending double play. Cintron collected his second double of the night to start the Sod Poodles offense after the stretch. A productive ground out moved Cintron to third and then Tawa's second RBI of the game brought Amarillo back within a run.
Rice kept the Travs at bay in the top of the eighth, leaving a two-out single stranded. Beer was the first man to face Prelander Berroa in the bottom of the eighth and after working a full-count, he launched the game-tying shot to the right field berm. Three straight outs sent the game to the ninth tied at 5-5.
Taylor Rashi headed to the mound for the ninth and a solo home run immediately swung the momentum back in the favor of Arkansas as they regained a one-run lead. Rashi worked around a walk following the home run to keep it at one run heading to the bottom of the ninth. Berroa worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to cap the six-out save and force a winner-take-all final game of the 2023 season at HODGETOWN on Wednesday night.
Conor Grammes will take the ball for Amarillo while the Travs will send RHP Jimmy Joyce. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
DUZE CRUISE: Camden Duzenack swatted his first homer of the postseason by leading off the bottom of the first for Amarillo. It was Duzenack's 11th home run of the season and his first since September 15th against Frisco. Duzenack also started a game with a leadoff home run on June 11th on the road in Midland and the September 15th game against Frisco. It was the first leadoff home run in Sod Poodles postseason history and the 11th overall by the Soddies in 2023.
MAKES CENTS: Juan Centeno hit his second home run of the season and first since April 13th on Tuesday night The veteran catcher hit his solo shot in the bottom of the fifth inning. After not playing in the first game of the playoffs, Centeno has been the backstop for the remaining five games of the postseason and added his third hit, making him 3-for-15 with a home run, two RBI, and a run scored in the Texas League Playoffs. Centeno had a breakout 2022 campaign, hitting a career-high 15 home runs including 14 with Amarillo in 81 games played.
LONG GONE BEER: Seth Beer hit his 16th home run of the season and tied Caleb Roberts atop the Sod Poodles postseason leaderboard with his third home run on Tuesday night. Beer is hitting .333 (6-for-18) with three home runs, a double, four RBI, and seven runs scored in five games during the Texas League Playoffs. Of his 16 total home runs in 2023 with Amarillo, six have come in the 8th inning or later. In the Sod Poodles first game at HODGETOWN in the playoffs, Beer hit a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to force extras against San Antonio.
BETTER IN PAIRS: Tim Tawa and Jancarlos Cintron each pitched in with multi-hit efforts for Amarillo on Tuesday night. Cintron finished 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, and two runs scored. His two doubles now give him four in the playoffs with five of his eight hits this postseason going for XBH. Tawa also finished with two hits, going 2-for-5 with a pair of RBI, Amarillo's only multi-RBI effort in Game Two of the Championship Series. In the playoffs, Tawa is hitting 7-for-23 (.304) with a home run, triple, six RBI, a walk, and three runs scored. Tawa's six RBI are tied for the most these playoffs by a Sod Poodles player along with Caleb Roberts.
BACKS AGAINST THE WALL: Amarillo will enter the final game of the 2023 season facing their eighth elimination game in team history during the postseason. In such games, Amarillo holds a record of 7-0, winning all seven on the road. Amarillo staved off elimination after dropping the first game against San Antonio in the South Division Championship Series by taking two in San Antonio. Amarillo also ended their championship run in 2019 by winning five straight elimination games against Midland and Tulsa.