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Vukovich Provides Game-Tying and Winning Runs in 6-2 Win

(John Moore)
September 16, 2022

San Antonio, Texas - The Amarillo Sod Poodles earned their third straight win over San Antonio to start the season's final regular-season series. The club's playoff hopes remain alive for at least another game with the comeback win and a Frisco loss to Northwest Arkansas. A pitcher's duel transpired over

San Antonio, Texas - The Amarillo Sod Poodles earned their third straight win over San Antonio to start the season's final regular-season series. The club's playoff hopes remain alive for at least another game with the comeback win and a Frisco loss to Northwest Arkansas.

A pitcher's duel transpired over the course of the first three innings on Thursday night. Right-hander Slade Cecconi started the game with a strikeout and retired the side in order. Amarillo put at least one runner on base in each of their first three innings, but none made it safely to second.

Cecconi, the Arizona Diamondbacks No. 11 rated prospect, stranded a leadoff double in the second inning and struck out the first two he faced in the bottom of the third. A two-out single helped to keep the inning alive with the second single of the inning pushing runners to the corners. Cecconi's fifth strikeout of the night - and third in the inning kept the game scoreless through three complete.

Another 1-2-3 inning for Amarillo in the top of the fourth sent Cecconi right back to work. Two more strikeouts in the bottom of the fourth had him up to seven for the night.

Blaze Alexander drew a leadoff walk but a double play erased him from the bases. A deep fly ball to left field off the bat of A.J. Vukovich was caught as the Sod Poodles were held to two hits through the first five innings and none since the second.

A hit by pitch with one out in the fifth brought an end to a run of five straight batters retired by Cecconi. He got the next two batters to fly out to remain unscathed with only three hits surrendered.

Caleb Roberts, fresh off a three-hit night on Wednesday, collected the third Amarillo hit against Thomas Eshelman with a line drive into center field. A high-chopper over the head of Eshelman was fielded and thrown to first as Roberts moved to second . The first runner in scoring position for the Sod Poodles came around to score as Jordan Lawlar beat out an infield single. A high throw and error allowed Roberts to make his way home to put the first run of the game on the scoreboard.

A leadoff bunt single for the Missions came around to tie the game after a single and throwing error got past the Amarillo third baseman. Jorge Barrosa was unable to corral a deep fly ball to left-center field and put the Missions in front for the first time Thursday. A single and walk loaded the bases against Cecconi still with nobody out. He responded by striking out the next two he faced with a pop-out to the first baseman keeping all three stranded and a one-run deficit.

Alexander once again reached base, this time getting plunked with one-out. The third double-play hit into kept Amarillo down by one run after the top of the seventh inning. Josh Green was the first reliever used, coming in to relieve Cecconi who finished with nine strikeouts and two earned runs on seven hits. After a leadoff single, Green got the next three batters out as the game moved to the final two innings.

Vukovich fell behind 0-2 in the top of the eighth inning before blasting a solo home run to tie the game. The Missions intentionally loaded the bases following a single and a double to keep a force out on the table. The gamble paid off, as a ground ball forced Roberts out at home and a Deyvison De Los Santos groundout kept three Sod Poodles stranded on base with the game tied.

Left-hander Andrew Saalfrank headed to the mound for the bottom of the 8th. He spun a perfect frame to send the contest to the 9th.

Alexander's second walk of the game kicked off the top of the game's final inning. Juan Centeno pushed him to third with his second hit of the night. After tying the game in the eighth, Vukovich put the Sod Poodles back in front with a line-drive RBI single into left field. A single and two-base error left Tim Tawa standing on third who then was able to score on Roberts' third hit of the game. A four-run inning provided a four-run lead and brought Kyle Backhus out of the bullpen to close the game in a non-save opportunity.

The southpaw retired two of the first three he faced, putting the Missions down to their final out. A ground rule double extended the game for at least another batter. The second Missions hit of the frame then put runners on the corners. The comeback was complete as Backhus forced a ground ball to Alexander at shortstop.

The series continues on Friday with LHP Blake Walston taking the mound for the Sod Poodles. Arizona's No. 5 rated prospect will look to give Amarillo their fourth straight win as he enters his final start of the 2022 regular-season 6-3 with a 5.47 ERA in Double-A this year. First pitch from The Wolff is scheduled for 7:05 PM.


Nine K Slade: Slade Cecconi ended the game with a six-inning outing where he struck out nine, his most in a game this year and the second most in his brief professional career. He allowed two earned runs after scattering seven hits and issued just one walk.

Vuk Nuke: A.J. Vukovich collected his second Double-A home run since being promoted to Amarillo on September 6. Vukovich is now hitting .290 (9-for-31) with two homers and five RBI in eight games played. It was his 30th professional home run in 206 games since being selected by the Diamondbacks in the 4th round of the 2020 MLB Draft.

Blaze On Base: Since returning from injury, Blaze Alexander has reached base in 26-of-29 games after drawing two walks and being hit by a pitch on Thursday with a hit in 20 of those games. Since August 10, The D-backs' No. 15 rated prospect is hitting .314 (32-for-102) with seven home runs, six doubles, two triples, eight walks, and 28 RBI.

Caleb "Three Knock" Roberts: For the second-straight night, Caleb Roberts collected three hits for the Sod Poodles. He went 3-for-4 with a trio of singles and drove in the final run of the 4-run 9th.

No Backing Down: Kyle Backus tossed another scoreless appearance in Double-A. In 11 games for the Sod Poodles, Backhus has nine scoreless appearances over 13.1 IP. The Texas native has surrendered only nine hits in those 11 games including two on Thursday. He has 17 strikeouts and is holding opposing hitters to a .184 BAA since his promotion.

Better Call Saal: Lefty Andrew Saalfrank picked up his first Double-A win with one perfect relief inning on Thursday in the eighth inning. He has made 13 appearances since joining the team on July 24 and has seven scoreless appearances and moves to 1-0 with a 5.14 ERA and has a pair of holds.

Centy Continues: Catcher Juan Centeno tallied another two hits against the Missions, going 2-for-4 with two singles. Centeno now has torched the Missions for 24 hits in 17 games including six home runs, six doubles, a triple, and 15 RBI.

BarDOSa: Jorge Barrosa pitched in the winning effort with a multi-hit game after going 2-for-4 with a double and a walk. It marked 37th multi-hit game at the Double-A level in 108 games played. He leads all active Amarillo players with 116 hits, 16 shy of Leandro Cedeño's 132 hits he collected during his Amarillo tenure. He ranks 4th overall in the D-backs' farm system this season with 128 total hits spread across High-A and Double-A.