Editor's note: College Baseball Nation is joined by guest writer, Riley Zayas, for coverage of the Texas Collegiate League. Riley Zayas is a high school freshman and freelance journalist from Round Rock, Texas. He began his journalism career as a Sports Illustrated Kid reporter and has since become a regular contributor to Horns Illustrated, covering Texas Longhorn sports. His work also includes Fellowship of Christian Athletes publications, his personal blog 360 Sports, and Sports Spectrum, a national christian sports magazine and website. He is passionate about all things sports and can be followed on Twitter at @ZayasRiley.
The “Hodgetown Showdown” features power at the plate
A 12-8 offensive battle in game one of this six game series between the Amarillo Sod Dogs and Amarillo Sod Squad set the tone for a series of hot-hitting, and several home runs. Both teams play at Hodgetown Stadium, leading to this series between city rivals being dubbed the “Hodgetown Showdown”. The Sod Squad stunned its North division rivals, taking the series four games to two. The Sod Dogs, who were leading the North division heading into the week, fell from first to third in the division standings, based on win total, while the Sod Squad now holds a one-game lead as the North’s first place team.
Five of the six contests featured at least one of the teams scoring more than 10 runs. The highest scoring affair came in a 20-11 Sod Dogs victory in game three, as five different players hit home runs. As a result of an errant night from the Sod Squad’s pitching staff, pitching coach Blake Rogers used eight pitchers, all but one giving up one run or more. The 3 hour, 34 minute contest in front of 1,831 Amarillo fans earned a place in the record books as the highest scoring game of the 2020 season.
College Baseball Nation’s Hitter of the Week Lyle Miller-Green led the way offensively for the Sod Squad, even hitting for the cycle in game two, while Lubbock Christian’s Eduardo Acosta went an impressive 10-for-26 with six runs scored for the Sod Dogs.
Top two teams in the South collide
When the San Antonio Flying Chanclas and Brazos Valley Bombers met for a six game series, everyone knew what was on the line. With just two spots in the playoffs, one of the top three in the south (Round Rock, San Antonio, Brazos Valley), would be left out of the postseason. Each game from here on out is crucial to a team’s chances to finish in the top two, especially in a division as tight as the south has been. The Bombers showed up and showed out, winning the final three games, using home field advantage, and great pitching to take down what was previously the South’s first place team. The Bombers won the series four games to two.
In game one, San Antonio jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Once the Bombers found their rhythm, though, the game changed completely as they settled in to score six unanswered and win the contest 6-3. Three extra base hits helped drive the offense late in the game.
Game two was all about the pitching for Brazos Valley, with three pitchers combining for a two-hit, 4-0 shutout victory. Starter Tristian Stivors out of Texas State threw four innings, and allowed just two base runners.
Game three did not feature a high level of hitting, with just six hits for Brazos Valley, but the Bombers found ways to score the baserunners, with just one runner left on base all game. San Antonio attempted to mount a comeback, pushing two across in the eighth, but it was too late. The Bombers ecured the series sweep with a 7-2 win.
Heading into the last week of the season, the defending league champs are in first place in the south division with a 15-9 record.
Playoff picture will be assembled on the last day of the season
With as tight as both divisions are, even as we enter into the final week of this shortened season, the four playoff teams truly will not be decided until the last days of the season.
In the north, four teams, including Frisco, who had 13 of its games either forfeited or cancelled, still have a shot to be one of those two to represent the north in the postseason. Currently, the Sod Squad holds first place by one game over Tulsa, and the Sod Dogs remain two games back from first place. This sets up a crucial, must-see three game series as the Sod Squad hosts the Tulsa Drillers to close out the season. This battle could easily decide who makes it to next week, and who does not. Factor in now that the Sod Dogs face Tulsa for three games starting Tuesday, adding to the drama a bit more. Between these three, who are the most likely to make the postseason from the north, one will be left out. Right now, that would be the Sod Dogs of Amarillo. However, knowing every game from here on out will be a “must-win”, the Sod Dogs will have something to drive them, with their playoff hopes on the line.
In the South, it is virtually the same story, with Brazos Valley holding a slightly larger lead over San Antonio and Round Rock. Round Rock is in a great position, as the Hairy Men will face both Brazos Valley and San Antonio this week, giving them a great opportunity to control their own destiny in the final week of the season. Currently, the Hairy Men are two games back, but that is a margin that can easily be covered, especially with five of the six contests at home. The Victoria Generals, who are just 7-17, could play the upset role, as Brazos Valley finishes the season off with three games against the fifth place team in the South. San Antonio does not have an easy road from here on out, battling the Amarillo Sod Squad Tuesday-Thursday, before taking on Round Rock Friday-Sunday.
Hitter of the Week: Lyle Miller-Green, George Mason University, Amarillo Sod Squad
Miller-Green exploded onto the stage in the “Hodgetown Showdown” as the two Amarillo teams battled it out over a six game series. Miller-Green played a key role in the Sod Squad winning the first two games of the series, as he went 5-for-8, with 10 RBI and a home run. That was no ordinary homer; it was a grand slam, which accounted for four of Miller-Green’s 8 RBI in the series opener, as the outfielder hit for the cycle. That tremendous performance is one that Miller-Green will remember for seasons to come.
“I’m doing my part to help the team win,” Lyle Miller-Green, George Mason, Amarillo Sod Squad
“I’m doing my part to help the team win,” said Miller-Green. “The Sod Dogs are a good team and we’re trying to distance ourselves from them in the standings. I’ve been trying to not miss pitches I should hit, like a fastball down the middle. I think that is the biggest part of my approach, being more aggressive at the plate.”
On the week, the George Mason sophomore had a .429 batting average, 12 RBI and two walks. He has a hit streak of five games and counting.
Pitcher of the Week: Chandler Best, Southern Miss, Acadiana Cane Cutters
Best posted one of the best performances of the week, as the southpaw threw five scoreless frames in the Cane Cutters’ 3-0 victory over Round Rock. He allowed just one hit, while striking out a season-high 11 batters. He kept the Hairy Men’s bats at bay, and earned his first win of the season. Best’s ERA is down to 2.70 and is the co-team leader in strikeouts.
Brazos Valley Bombers 15-9- It was close, but Brazos Valley’s huge 4-2 series victory over the South division’s first place team earns them the top spot in this week’s rankings, the second time this season the Bombers have held that title.
Amarillo Sod Squad 15-9- The incredible performances by the Sod Squad against a very good Sod Dogs team over six games this week, as well as the jump to first place in the north, earns them a four position jump in this week’s power rankings.
Tulsa Drillers 14-9- The Drillers are riding a three game win streak after sweeping Victoria over the weekend and carrying a surge of momentum heading into the final week of the regular season.
Round Rock Hairy Men 13-11-The Hairy Men barely edged out the Sod Dogs for the fourth spot in the rankings, thanks to a midweek sweep of Victoria and the pitching performances throughout the week, especially the 10-0 shutout win against Acadiana Saturday night. Texas Tech’s TJ Rumfield, who was just added to the team last week, is hitting the ball well. Also important to note is that Ryan Hernandez, the Houston first baseman, has sat out the last two games for an unknown reason.
Amarillo Sod Dogs 13-11- The Sod Dogs dropped five places from last week to this week, a large part of it due to the lack of quality pitching against the Sod Squad in the “Hodgetown Showdown”. The Sod Dogs still have a good shot to make the postseason, but will likely need to win the upcoming series against Tulsa to fight for second place in the division.
San Antonio Flying Chanclas 13-10- The Chanclas had a good opportunity with six straight games against Brazos Valley, and a chance to distance themselves from the rest of the pack. The offense simply did not score enough to keep up with the Bombers, causing San Antonio to drop back four spots after losing the series four games to two.
Frisco Roughriders 12-10- Frisco has endured 13 of its scheduled games being either cancelled or forfeited and has somehow remained in the playoff hunt, entering the week three games back from first place.