Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Travs drop Game 1 to Poodles


The Arkansas Travelers treated their fans to one last comeback attempt Sunday afternoon in their final home game of the 2023 season.

But the attempt fell one run short as they fell to the Amarillo sod Poodles 3-2 at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock in Game 1 of the Texas League Championsh­ip Series.

After a quiet offensive start from both sides, Arkansas struck first when Tyler Locklear hit a towering home run to left field in the third inning to give the Travelers a 1-0 lead.

In the top of the fourth inning, Amarillo responded with two runs. Both of the Sod Poodles’ runs in the inning came with two outs. The first scored on a double by Kristian Robinson. The second scored on an error by Arkansas second baseman Kaden Polcovich to make the score 2-1.

In the fifth inning, Arkansas loaded the bases after three walks with one out, but the Travelers failed to capitalize on the opportunit­y as Lockler and Alberto Rodriguez struck out in back-to-back plate appearance­s to end the inning.

“That’s baseball. And it happens,” Travelers Manager Mike Freeman said. “They made some good pitches. We hit some balls really hard. The ball wasn’t carrying today, and that worked against us. I think we hit the ball probably better than they did tonight, but we just didn’t have as much to show for it. That’s kind of how baseball goes sometimes.”

Arkansas gave the ball to Kyle Tyler to open the series, the same as he did in the Texas League North Division Series against Springfiel­d.

Tyler (0-1) allowed three runs, two earned in five innings on four hits and no walks. He struck out three batters.

“We liked the matchup and KT’s been throwing the ball great this last month or so,” Freeman said. “I have a lot of confidence in him, and he showed why today. He picked up our defense a couple times, we missed some balls behind him that led to a run. He gave us a chance to win, and that’s all we could ask.”

In the top of the sixth inning, Tyler allowed a single to A.J. Vukovich in what was designed to be his last batter to face. Two batters later, against reliever Jorge Benitez, Vukovich scored on Deyvison De Los Santos double to center field, giving the Sod Poodles a 3-1 lead.

Polcovich led off the ninth inning with a walk, followed by a flyout by Josh Morgan and a hit by pitch drawn by Jake Anchia. Connor Hoover hit a single to right field to drive in Polcovich and make it 3-2, but Leo Rivas hit into a game-ending double-play.

The Travelers and Sod Poodles will play the second game of the best-of-three series Tuesday at Hodgetown Stadium in Amarillo, Texas.

“I feel really good about our guys, the way they compete, the way they battled,” Freeman said. “I like the way we match up with these guys. So we’ll go to Amarillo and we’ll have to win two games here.”

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