Midland, Texas - The Arkansas Travelers opened the 2014 season with a bang by crushing the Midland RockHounds by a score of 20-7 on Thursday night at Security Bank Ballpark. Third baseman Kaleb Cowart led a 22-hit attack with five base hits including a home run (1) and a double while knocking in five runs. Cowart was only a piece of the offensive puzzle in a game that saw all nine Travs starters collect a base hit and score a run while eight starters collected at least one RBI.
Cowart enjoyed the biggest game of his time with the Travelers, but he was just one of four Travs to record at least three base hits. Right fielder Drew Heid collected four hits including a double, while second baseman Alex Yarbrough and first baseman Michael Snyder each had three hits.
Most of the damage inflicted by Travs hitters came during a three-inning stretch from the second through the fourth inning when they scored 17 runs on 18 base hits. Hounds starting pitcher Drew Granier had retired all three batters in the first inning, but could only get two outs in the second before being removed. Snyder hit a one-out single to get the rally started then Jett Bandy walked. Heid knocked in Snyder for a 1-0 Travs lead with a double to center field. The bases loaded up when Travs shortstop Eric Stamets lined a single out of third baseman Jefry Marte's glove then designated hitter Shawn O'Malley lined an RBI single to right field scoring Bandy for a 2-0 lead. O'Malley was caught between first and second when Heid was held up at third base. The rally continued as centerfielder Kyle Hudson singled to drive in two more runs. Then Yarbrough and Cowart hit back-to-back doubles, and Snyder collected another RBI single for a 7-0 Travs lead.
Mark Sappington struggled mostly over three innings for the Travs in a no-decision. Hounds second baseman Dusty Coleman hit a two-out, two-run homer in the second inning to get Midland within a 7-2 score.
After O'Malley made it a 8-2 lead with an RBI triple in the third inning, Sappington allowed four runs in the third inning cutting the lead to 8-6.
The Travs put the game out of the RockHounds reach in the fourth inning with another lengthy rally that included nine runs, eight hits and 13 batters. Midland reliever Nate Long allowed a one-out infield single to Cowart, who stole second and took third on Hounds catcher Beau Taylor's throwing error. With the infield playing up, Zach Borenstein hit a high chopper to the outfield to score Cowart. Blake Hassebrock relieved and was immediately touched for a single by Snyder which Bandy followed with a three-run blast to right field (1) for a 12-6 lead. Heid followed with his third hit, a single, and took second base when Midland shortstop Addison Russell fielded a grounder from Stamets in front of second base and flipped short of the bag. O'Malley walked to load the bases then Hassebrock walked Hudson forcing in Heid. Yarbrough beat a high chopper for an RBI infield single, Cowart knocked in two more runs with a single to right and Borenstein capped the rally with an RBI single for a 17-6 Travs lead.
Sappington was lifted after three innings and allowed six runs on eight base hits, three walks and three strikeouts. Reliever Ryan Chaffee (1-0) worked the fourth and fifth innings for the victory, allowing just two hits with four strikeouts. Orangel Arenas added three innings of relief with an unearned run allowed. Carmine Giardina closed the game for the Travs with a solid ninth inning allowing one hit.
The Travs added their 18th run in the seventh inning on an RBI fielder's choice by O'Malley. Cowart's two-run homer in the eighth inning off Ryan Dull finished their scoring for night.
Time of game was 3:52 and the paid attendance was 5,688.
The Travs battle the RockHounds on Friday night at Security Bank Ballpark with lefty Michael Roth taking the hill against Hounds righty Zach Neal at 7:00 p.m.