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Travelers to meet Cardinals in MiLB playoffs

by Erick Taylor | September 19, 2023 at 3:01 a.m.
Arkansas Travelers second baseman Connor Hoover throws out a baserunner during the top of the third inning of the Traveler’s 12-3 win on Wednesday, April 12, 2023, at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock. .(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

Things haven't always gone Arkansas' way since the calendar flipped to September, but there's still time to amend that before the month ends.

The Travelers will get that chance today when they head to Springfield, Mo., to face the Cardinals in Game 1 of the Texas League North Division Series at Hammons Field. Arkansas will host Game 2 on Thursday, and if necessary, Game 3 on Friday at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock.

But first things first for a Travelers' bunch that's experienced some ups and downs as of late.

Arkansas won its first three contests of September at Tulsa but then dropped nine of its next 11 games. The Travelers were in the midst of a three-game slide until they recently won their last two games against Northwest Arkansas.

"Honestly, this is something the guys have been looking forward to for a long time despite what the record's been the last month," Arkansas Manager Mike Freeman said of his team's postseason opportunity. "But I think they've been playing some really good baseball lately. This is a really close group of guys that like to play together, who like to hang out together and play the game the right way.

"They play for each other so it should be fun to see how things play out."

The ideal ending for the Travelers, who won the North's first-half title and are in the playoff for the first time since 2019, would be to cap off the year with an overall Texas League championship, something it hasn't done since 2008. In order for that to happen, Arkansas has to first dispatch a Springfield team that didn't lock up its postseason spot until the final day of the regular season.

The Cardinals needed to beat San Antonio or have Wichita lose to Tulsa in the teams' respective finales on Sept. 16 to clinch the North's second-half crown. Both scenarios unfolded as such, which enabled Springfield to notch its first playoff berth since 2012.

The Travelers went 13-11 against the Cardinals during the season, but the teams seemingly swapped places in the standings over the first and second halves. Arkansas finished fourth in the division during Springfield's second-half run to the championship while the Cardinals were third when the Travelers captured their first-half title. There was obviously some roster changes for both as well, which was a factor that Freeman alluded to.

"Of course, with team success comes turnover, which is what you want," he explained. "When you have new players come in, guys have to learn how to gel together. Then, you sometimes lose your clubhouse leaders, too, when you have those changes. But I thought the guys all did a good job adjusting."

Freeman pointed out that although his team did get the best of Springfield more times than not this year, the Cardinals won't be a pushover by any means.

"They've got a good team with really good players," he said. "A lot of their guys are some of the same guys that have been there the whole year. They're well coached, they throw the ball well, and their offense is good. So it'll be good challenge for us.

"Whenever we've played them, it's always been good competitive games, and we expect a lot of the same against them this week."

Arkansas at Springfield

WHAT Texas League North Division Series (best-of-3)

WHEN 6:35 p.m. today

WHERE Hammons Field, Springfield, Mo.

NOTEWORTHY Game 2 and if necessary, Game 3, will be played at Dickey-Stephens Parks in North Little Rock. First pitch for those games will be at 6:35 p.m.


Print Headline: Travs to meet Cards in playoffs


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