Friday, April 16, 2010

SPORTS >> ’Hounds erupt to pound Travs

Arkansas and Midland managers swap lineups Thursday.


Leader sports editor

The Arkansas Travelers went 0 for Midland in their home opener at Dickey-Stephens Park on Thursday night.

The Midland RockHounds rolled to an 11-1 victory, a score identical to the season opener in Midland, and ran their record against Arkansas to 4-0 before a crowd of 7,144.

Midland got 11 hits and took advantage of four Travelers’ errors in its first visit to North Little Rock this year.

“It was one of those games we didn’t hit, we didn’t pitch, we didn’t play defense,” Arkansas manager Bobby Magallanes said.

In an annual scheduling twist, Midland and Frisco, of the Texas League South Division, play Arkansas, of the North, in the first 12 games of the year. Arkansas is the Class AA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels and Midland is affiliated with the Angels’

American League West rival the Oakland Athletics.

Counting spring training games, the Arkansas and Midland clubs get to know each other fairly well in the early going of each season.

“We’ve had four games against them and two of them were really close, one-run games,” Midland manager Darren Bush said.

“And then we just had some games go our way in the other two where we took advantage of some opportunities.”

Midland made the most of its 11 hits and sent nine to the plate in a five-run fourth inning that featured a grand slam by designated hitter Archie Gilbert, batting in the No. 9 spot.

Arkansas’ lone run came on Paul McAnulty’s sacrifice fly in the sixth, but Midland responded with a three-run seventh that included Alex Valdez’s two-run triple.

“Actually, the first game of the season we lost 11-1,” Magallanes said. “So it’s like déjà vu. It’s like ‘Whoa, it’s happening again, 11-1.’ They’ve got a good team. They can hit. We can’t make too many mistakes against those guys. They really capitalize on them.”

Midland left-hander Carlos Hernandez (1-0) started and went 5 1/3 innings for the victory. Hernandez gave up two hits, one run, struck out four and walked three.

Travelers starter Jayson Miller (0-2) gave up seven runs, though just two were earned because of errors, in five innings as he took the loss.

Magallanes noted Midland has gotten away from a patient plate approach once encouraged by the parent Oakland club in favor of a more aggressive offensive style.

“They run,” he said. “They don’t go station to station anymore, they don’t take pitches anymore. They’re a lot more aggressive now.”

Midland improved to 5-2 and remained tied with Corpus Christi for first in the South. Arkansas dropped to 3-4 and was in third in the North behind Northwest Arkansas and Springfield.

The Travelers returned to action against Midland at Dickey-Stephens on Friday, and wrap up the three-game series with the RockHounds today. Frisco arrives for a three-game series that begins Sunday.

The two South Division clubs won’t play Arkansas again until the second half of the Texas League season begins July 1.

“We see them a lot but the games usually takes place,” Bush said. “They play hard all the time and we know that. So we have to be on our game.”

The ever-worsening score didn’t seem to bother the opening night crowd Thursday.

Fans were still lining up at the ticket windows in the second inning, families reclined on blankets in the outfield berms and customers in the ballpark beer garden, known as “Hook Slide Corner,” stood shoulder to shoulder most of the evening.

“We didn’t play that well but hopefully we can get them tomorrow,” Magallanes said.