But, not before they blew an eight run lead to lose to the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
It was 10:30, Wednesday night, April 29th. The Springfield Cardinals and the Northwest Arkansas Naturals were tied at 8, and in the 12th inning. The Naturals had taken the first two games of the series and the Cards knew they needed this one. They were in first place in the Northern Division by two games as the game continued to unfold. Two down in the top of the inning with Mike Folley batting. No cigar--the game went to the bottom of the 12th. Naturals put men on first and third after a lead off walk--not a good sign in late innings. Elvis Henandez threw a ball hit back to the mound into center-field to end the game in Arkansas. Springfield lost the game in Springdale, and found themselves in first place by only one game.
It was rather late that night for a ballgame to still be going on, but it was nothing compared to opening night. In the early innings, the rain came and it stayed. The television crews packed up and went home. Most fans headed for the exits, convinced the game would be called. But the die-hard remained. A few true-blue Cardinal fans, a handful of reporters and a whole flock of stadium employees. The game would be resumed and no one would leave the field until after 1 a.m. The opening day game, that really started at 6 p.m. with all the festivities and all, would go on for over seven hours. Did I mention the tornado? When you play in Springfield, you play that other defensive factor also--the weather. Rarely good for roofing or baseball. Bu as one young fan at the stadium put it : "Sure, we sat in the rain for several hours, and it was cold and windy, but hey, it's Cardinal baseball."
To summarize the end of April: April 27: Springfield rallied to tie Northwest Arkansas at 6-6, but the Naturals' five-run sixth inning led to a 12-6 Cardinals loss. Daniel Descalso had two of the Cards' three triples, while Daryl Jones, Brett Wallace and Steven Hill also collected two hits. Ryan Kulik was roughed up in his first start after being promoted from Single-A Palm Beach ... April 28: Number eight hitter Tyler Henley broke up a perfect game with a sixth inning double in a 3-1 loss to Northwest Arkansas. Daryl Jones and Daniel Descalso were the only other Cardinals to record a hit ... April 29: The Cards' dropped a heartbreaker to Northwest Arkansas 9-8 in 12 innings after holding a commanding 8-0 lead early. Daniel Descalso went 4-for-6, but was stranded three times as Springfield failed to score after a big eight-run second. Brad Furnish gave back six runs in 4 1/3 innings of work after being staked to the early lead ... April 30: Springfield snapped a three-game skid with a 6-2 win over Northwest Arkansas. Daryl Jones and Andrew Brown collected three hits apiece, while Jim Rapoport, Brett Wallace and Mark Hamilton homered for the Cards. Tyler Herron got the win, allowing two runs in six innings of work, nullifying the Drillers' ninth inning heroics.
I am going to go out on a limb this year, and make some predictions. First, I predict that the next person in the Cardinal organization to be called up by St. Louis will be Bret Wallace. It is really hard to ignore a guy who hits walk off home runs in consecutive games. He has continued to improve his play at third base and he seems to have become a team leader. I have heard people complain that he doesn't have the proper build for a third baseman, he is a rather stocky guy at 6'1'' and 245 pounds. Does no one remember Terry Pendleton?
Tyler Herron will most likely get pitcher of the year and Francisco Samuels will slip into the best relief pitcher position by the end of the season.
Ok, I have gone out on a limb, but now I am going to saw that limb off--while I am still sitting on it. I predict that this will be the year for a repeat of an I-70 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals. And this time there will be no tarp-rolling killing machine, and no blind umpires. The Cards will win it in five games and we can all sleep again. Go Cards.
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