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FRISCO, Texas -- The Frisco RoughRiders won the South Division in both halves of the Texas League season, cruising to a league-best 84-56 overall record before sweeping San Antonio in three games in the semifinals.
The Arkansas Travelers, meanwhile, eked out a first-half title in the North with a 36-34 record and struggled to a 26-44 record in the second half, finishing 16 games below .500 on the season.
But, as the saying goes, you can throw out the records in the playoffs, and the Travs showed why Friday night.
Arkansas exploded for seven second-inning runs and tacked on three more in the fourth to rout the RoughRiders, 10-3, and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 Championship Series at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
Brian Stavisky led the Travs' attack, going 3-for-5 with a homer, four RBIs and two runs scored.
"This was a game we really wanted to win so we wouldn't get down to Frisco here at home," said Stavisky, 28, who hit .312 with 16 homers, 51 RBIs and 12 steals in 86 games after signing with the Angels in May out of an independent league. "Everyone was relaxed and loose. A lot of guys had really good at-bats and we had a good pitching performance from Dave Austen. It went pretty much all around for us tonight."
Austen gave up all three runs over eight strong innings, striking out four, before reliever Francisco Rodriguez (no, not that Francisco Rodriguez) came on for a scoreless ninth for the Travs.
The RoughRiders took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first but ran themselves out of what could have been a bigger inning. Shortstop phenom Elvis Andrus got things started with a one-out single and stole second but was picked off on his way to third. After Dustin Majewski and Emerson Frostad drew back-to-back walks, Chad Tracy delivered an RBI hit down the left field line to score Majewski, but Frostad was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
In retrospect, the lost runs probably did not make that much difference.
Arkansas took advantage of that momentum right away, getting to starter Michael Schlacht in the second. After Frisco left fielder Steve Murphy made a dazzling sliding scoop on a looper by Hank Conger, the floodgates opened.
Veteran Corey Smith got things started and tied the game with a mammoth solo homer to left field. Key hits in the inning, which saw the Travelers bat around before knocking out Schlacht, included two-run doubles by Conger and Nate Sutton, a run-scoring double by Chris Pettit and an RBI single by Stavisky.
Conger, the Angels' top pick in 2006, joined the Travelers for the playoffs after his Advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes were eliminated from postseason in a one-game playoff on Sept. 2. In six games with Arkansas, he's already driven in 12 runs.
The Travelers made it 10-1 in the fourth when Sutton led things off with a walk and was joined on the bases by Wil Ortiz, who singled. Stavisky brought them home with a three-run homer to left field.
The RoughRiders tacked on single runs in the sixth and seventh, both driven in by Julio Borbon on a homer and a single, but it was too little, too late.
With the unspoken spectre of Hurricane Ike looming over the weekend, and Game 4 already postponed until 6 p.m. CT on Sunday, there was no question that a victory in Game 3 was paramount on both teams' minds.
It was especially sweet for Arkansas, which needs to win just one of the next two games in Frisco to take home the trophy.
"After a win like this, we'd like to keep the momentum going, but you can't do much about hurricanes coming through," Stavisky said. "So we'll just play the hand we're dealt and whenever we can play again when the rain stops, hopefully, the momentum will still be there when we get back on the field."
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.