North Little Rock, Arkansas - The Arkansas Travelers scored three runs in the sixth inning, with C.J. Cron's two-run homer the tiebreaking base hit, and went on for a 4-1 victory over the San Antonio Missions to take a 2-1 lead in the Texas League Championship Series at Dickey-Stephens Park. Cron and outfielder Randal Grichuk both went 2-for-4 with a pair of extra-base hits in the Travs' 13th win in the last 14 games.
Mark Sappington pitched his way out of trouble for nearly all of his five innings. The 22-year old from Peculiar, Missouri, walked four and allowed four base hits but stranded six runners and got help from battery mate Jett Bandy, who threw out two Missions runners on the bases.
Arkansas pitchers allowed just six hits, stranded ten base runners and have allowed just two runs in 26 innings during the series.
Early in the game Sappington had trouble commanding his fastball and walked three batters in the first inning. However Bandy threw out Cory Spangenberg attempting to steal second base after the first walk. Two Missions runners were stranded when Jake Blackwood grounded to third base.
The Missions threatened in the second inning as Yeison Asencio singled and Austin Hedges walked with no outs. However with Everett Williams batting, Bandy picked Asencio off second base for the first out. Sappington then threw a wild pitch giving Hedges second base before inducing Williams to ground out to second moving Hedges third base. Second baseman Taylor Lindsey then made a nice backhanded scoop of a Jeudy Valdez grounder and threw across his body for a close out to end the inning.
More trouble found Sappington when Rico Noel hit a bloop double near the left field line to begin the third inning. Spangenberg bunted for a hit putting runners at the corners with no outs. Once again Sappington came through getting Adam Buschini and Johan Limonta to hit lazy fly outs to shallow left field keeping Noel at third base. Blackwood stranded both runners when he grounded out to Cron.
Sappington's only easy inning came when he retired the Missions in order for the fourth inning. He then had to get around Noel's second double, a one-out base hit to the left-field gap in the fifth. Noel stole third with one out, but Sappington came through with his only strikeout to take care of Spangenberg. Buschini flied out to end the inning and Sappington's night came to a close.
Ryan Chaffee (W, 1-0) relieved Sappington for the sixth inning, but the Missions loaded the bases on a single by Blackwood followed by a walk to Asencio and a single by Hedges. Chaffee brought Blackwood home with a wild pitch then intentionally walked Williams to reload the bases. Chaffee escaped further damage when Valdez hit a fielder's choice to short and Noel bounced to Lindsey at second base.
The Travs were dominated by Donn Roach over five innings with just one hit, one walk and another batters reaching on an error. Trailing 1-0 Grichuk got things going with a sixth-inning leadoff double followed by a sacrifice bunt by Lindsey that sent Grichuk to third and forced the Missions the play the infield up for Cyle Hankerd. Valdez had to reach for Hankerd's high chopper to his right, but the ball kicked out as Grichuk scored the tying run on a single. Cron then crushed a 2-0 pitch and lined it over the four-foot wall in right-center field for a 3-1 Travs lead.
Roach was pulled after the long ball and took the loss allowing three runs on four hits and one walk while striking out five. The home run by Cron was just the eighth allowed by Roach this year and the first since July 22.
After Nick Maronde pitched the top of the seventh inning retiring all three batters including two by strikeout, the Travs struck again in the seventh inning. Travis Witherspoon bunted with one out for a base hit and stole second base. Grichuk lined a two-out base hit to the left of center field just out of the reach of Noel. The ball rolled to the fence for an RBI triple and a 4-1 Travs lead.
The Travs pen took it from there with both David Carpenter and Michael Morin (Save, 4) pitching one inning each. San Antonio went the last three innings without a base hit and just one total runner.
The Travs can win the Texas League Championship on Saturday night in the fourth game of the series. Lay Batista (0-0, 1.42 postseason) is set to take the ball for the Travelers against San Antonio lefty Juan Oramas (0-0, 0.00 postseason). First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. and coverage of the game begins at 6:45 p.m. on Sports Animal 920.