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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER The Naturals' Gabriel Cancel can't make the catch as Amarillo's Buddy Reed slides into second base Monday June 17, 2017 at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale.

SPRINGDALE -- Not even a pair of Kansas City Royals on rehab assignments could keep Amarillo from clinching the Texas League's South Division first-half championship Monday night.

The Sod Poodles ruined Eric Skoglund's second start at Northwest Arkansas as they roughed up the left-hander for five runs over 4.1 innings en route to a 7-2 victory over the Naturals at Arvest Ballpark.

Amarillo's win allowed the Sod Poodles (34-34) to move one-half game ahead of Midland (34-35) in the standings after the RockHounds dropped a 3-0 decision to Springfield to end the first half. The Sod Poodles, who took over San Antonio's spot in the Texas League, now claims a spot in postseason play in September.

"It's baseball, and it happens," said Skoglund, who beat Amarillo last week in his first rehab start. "It's disappointing because my expectations are a little higher than that. They executed on pitches that I made mistakes on, and that's a good hitting ball club. I tip my cap to them."

Skoglund allowed the leadoff hitter to reach base in four of the five innings he worked, and it caught up with him in the fourth. A leadoff single by Owen Miller and a walk to Luis Torrens set the stage for Brad Zunica, who tripled past Khalil Lee in center to tie the game at 2 and scored on Ruddy Giron's grounder moments later to put Amarillo ahead for good.

The Sod Poddles added two runs on four hits in the fifth, including an RBI single by Edward Oliveras and a run-scoring double off the center-field wall by Torrens that eventually chased Skoglund. Torrens finished a home run short of the cycle after he had a triple in the ninth.

"I'm trying to continue to get ahead and stay ahead of batters and trying to keep the ball down," Skoglund said. "I thought I did that pretty well at the beginning of the game. But I kept making mistakes and getting behind on the count, and I was missing on some pitches that should have been in the dirt. Obviously, they executed on that.

"They were definitely putting pressure on with a bunt single in the fifth, and it's never an exciting feeling as a pitcher to see that leadoff man get on base. You want to get that guy out, and they did a pretty good job of getting their men on."

SHORT HOPS

• Kansas City infielder Hunter Dozier, who went on the injured list June 3 with tightness on his thorax, began his rehab assignment Monday with Northwest Arkansas. Dozier, who was hitting .314 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs over 52 games with the Royals, went 1-for-4 and had a two-run single to drive in the Naturals' only runs.

• Midland starter Lake Bachar (3-2) and two relievers combined to hold Northwest Arkansas to only two hits, with Angelo Castellano's single helping set up Dozier's big hit. Bachar allowed both hits and four walks over six innings, while Blake Rogers, Evan Miller and David Bednar each threw a hitless inning.

• Monday's win was only the fifth time in 21 attempts this season where Amarillo won the opening game of a series.

ON DECK

The middle game of this three-game series also marks the beginning of the second half of Texas League play. Northwest Arkansas will send left-hander J.C. Cloney (2-2, 2.65 ERA) to the mound, while Amarillo will counter with right-hander Ronald Bolanos (1-1, 9.00). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

TODAY'S PROMOTION

It's Arvest Customer Discount Night, where the bank's customers can get $5 premium dugout seats. Fans can enjoy Johnsonville brats for $1 each, and there will be a T-shirt for the first 300 fans, courtesy of Grand Lake Casino. It's also buy one t-shirt and get another one for half price at the team store.

On The Air: KQSM-FM 92.1

On The Web: www.nwanaturals.com

Sports on 06/18/2019

Print Headline: MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: Sod Poodles rough up Skoglund, Naturals

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