Arkansas manager Tim Bogar is not at all surprised where the Travelers are right now.
Winning the North division of the Texas championship with a three-game sweep over the Tulsa Drillers, the Travs began the quest of winning the Texas championships tonight at San Antonio and are riding an 11-game winning streak.
“As I said since the beginning of the season, I knew we would be better (in the second half) than in the first half,” Bogar said. “It’s been nice to see this group grow and come together. They are playing with confidence and understand what they can and can’t do.”
The Travs have not lost since Aug. 25, a 3-2 setback at Northwest Arkansas. They then won the final game at Northwest Arkansas, then seven at home (four against Springfield and three against Northwest Arkansas) and then the three against Tulsa (two at Tulsa, one at Dickey-Stephens Park). Because they swept the Drillers last Friday, the Travs got to enjoy two days off before traveling to San Antonio this past Monday for Tuesday’s contest.
“Sweeping was a good thing,” Bogar said. “Our pitchers pitched well, and we had some big hits when we needed them. I’m happy with the way we played. Now, our biggest challenge is ahead of us, but I think that is in our favor.”
Arkansas’ performance against San Antonio hasn’t been great with a 2-9 record against the Missions during the regular season. However, the Mission went all five games (best three of five) with Corpus Christi, losing games one and two. They host the first two games (Tuesday and Wednesday) then Thursday is a travel day with game three Friday at Dickey-Stephens. Four and five, if necessary, will also be at Dickey-Stephens on Saturday and Sunday.
“There are two ways you can look at that,” Bogar said. “They are using all their pitchers, and we have a chance to rest guys with some bumps and bruises. This (the rest) gives us a chance to rejuvenate. It doesn’t really matter what happened earlier. We have to go in and be prepared. The guys know my philosophy. It’s just another game, and we have to play well and communicate and do the little things.”
During the playoffs and the winning streak, the Travelers have had the benefit of not just one guy coming up with the big hit or pitching well. Against Tulsa in the first game, C.J. Cron had two home runs and Robbie Widlansky and Randal Grichuk each added a solo shot. In the second game, Cyle Hankerd hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth to break a 1-1 tie and give the Travs the victory. In the third game, Jett Bandy’s two doubles scored four runs in the 5-2 win.
“That’s a sign of a good team that you don’t have to rely on one person,” Bogar said. “The last of the season, we have won by blowouts, in extra innings, and in close games. We have won all kinds of different ways.”