April 7, 2005 - The Springfield Cardinals dropped their first Texas League game on Thursday night, as the Arkansas Travelers used a three-run seventh inning to win their home opener by a score of 6-5 at Ray Winder Field in Little Rock. Thursday's game kicked off what is sure to be an exciting Texas League season, the first in Springfield Cardinals history.
David Gates drove in his third run of the night, using a sac fly in the seventh inning to cap a three-run frame, as the Travs rallied from a two-run defecit. Trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh, Reggie Willits and Alberto Callaspo opened the inning with consecutive hits off Springfield reliever Randy Leek. Nate Cotton (0-1) came out of the pen and hit Erick Aybar with his first pitch, loading the bases. Mike Napoli made it a 5-4 game with a sac fly to center field for the first out of the inning. Tommy Murphy then tied the game at 5-5, doubling to right field to score Callaspo. With runners at second and third and only one out, David Gates lifted a fly ball to the outfield, deep enough to score Aybar from third, giving the Travs the lead for good.
The Cardinals got off to a great start, as Shaun Boyd became the first Springfield Cardinals player to collect a hit in the Texas League, doubling to left on just the second pitch of the game. After Reid Gorecki laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Boyd to third, third baseman Travis Hanson hit the first Cardinals home run of the year. The drive to right-center field just cleared the wall, giving the Cards a 2-0 lead.
Arkansas got a run in the bottom of the inning off Cards starter Jeremy Cook, making it 2-1. In the second, David Gates ripped a pitch that just got over the left field wall, tying the game at 2-2.
Springfield took a 3-2 lead in the fifth, as Milko Jaramillo's single knocked in Tyler Minges, who led off the inning with a double. The Cards added to their lead in the sixth, as Papo Bolivar homered to center field off Travs starter Steven Shell. The Travs got one back in the bottom of the sixth, but watched as the Cards reclaimed a two-run advantage in the seventh. Tyler Minges led off the inning with his first homer of the year, a solo shot off Travs reliever and eventual winner, Jonathan Rouwenhorst (1-0), to make it 5-3.
After the Travelers got three in the seventh to take a 6-5 lead, the Cards tried to come back. Gabe Johnson picked up his second hit of the night, a two-out infield single to put the tying run on first base. However, Von Stertzbach was summoned out of the pen, retiring Andy Schutzenhofer by getting him to ground out to second.
Stertzbach collected his first save of the year by holding the Cards off the board in the final frame. The Cards had two different chances in the ninth, as Matt DeMarco picked up a one-out single. Pinch runner Kevin Estrada was thrown out trying to steal just one pitch later though. With two outs and the bases empty, Bo Robinson grounded a pitch to shortstop Erick Aybar. Aybar's throw to first was in the dirt, allowing the tying run to reach first base again. Shaun Boyd followed with a groundball to Aybar, who redeemed himself by firing to second base to get the force and end the game.
Cardinals starting pitcher Jeremy Cook battled through some early control issues, but settled down and finished strong, going five innings, allowing two runs on just three hits, while walking two and striking out two.
The Cardinals look to score their first Texas League win on Friday night, sending left-hander Buddy Blair to the mound in the second game of the four-game series. Arkansas will counter with fellow lefty Joe Saunders. Game time from Ray Winder Field is at 7:10pm. The Farmers Insurance Pre-Game Show on JOCK 98.7 FM begins at 6:55pm.
The Cardinals return home for their regular season home opener on Tuesday, April 12th. Tickets are still available by calling (417) 863-2143, or by visiting www.springfieldcardinals.com.
All Springfield Cardinals games are broadcast live on JOCK 98.7 FM as well as online at www.springfieldcardinals.com.