Fans who arrived early and stayed late were treated to two fireworks displays Friday night in the Arkansas Travelers’ 8-6 victory over the Springfield Cardinals at Dickey-Stephens Park.
The Travelers scored four runs in the first and three in the second inning, two of the second-inning runs coming on a towering two-run home run by right fielder Keegan McGovern.
It was McGovern’s second home run of the season, and the 10th by a Travelers hitter in nine games at a park that is not known to give up long balls at that rate over the years.
McGovern said he and his teammates are aware of the Dickey-Stephens reputation, but they are not dwelling on it.
“We’re just going up there and trying to put a good swing on it,” he said. “We heard some things. But we’ve got some dudes that have got some juice.” Both teams kept the scoreboard flashing early, with the Cardinals scoring two runs on four hits off Travelers starter Penn Murfee in the top of the first.
Murfee ended up going 5 innings, allowing 4 runs on 9 hits with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts. Some of the hits were of the bloop variety.
“He got unlucky,” Travelers Manager Collin Cowgill said of Murfee. “He throws strikes, and that’s what we want.” Cowgill said the Travelers have been executing their philosophy the past four games against the Cardinals, showing patience at the plate and being ready to hit when the ball is in the zone.
Arkansas led 4-2 after a 42-minute first inning that saw 11 batters reach base between the two teams — 4 singles, 3 doubles, 3 walks and a hit batsman.
Springfield starter Alvaro Seijas did not make it out of the first inning, getting taken out after striking out Connor Kopach for the second out of the inning. He threw 41 pitches, yielding 4 runs, 3 hits, 3 walks and a hit batsman in two-thirds of an inning.
The Travs took a 7-2 lead in the bottom of the second on McGovern’s home run to right, a 354-foot drive that left the bat at 105 mph with a 39-degree launch angle. The home run scored Jake Scheiner, who walked to lead off the inning.
Arkansas added a third second-inning run when Stephen Wrenn walked with two outs and advanced to second on Bobby Honeyman’s fly ball single to left center. Dom Thompson-Williams knocked in Wrenn with a bloop single to center.
Springfield scored a run in the top of the third when Luken Baker scored on an infield single. Springfield made it 7-4 in the fourth on Nick Plummer’s sacrifice fly.
Honeyman led off the bottom of the fifth with his third hit of the game for the Travs, and he went to third on a single by Thompson-Williams. Jordan Cowan followed with a 12-pitch at-bat that included eight foul balls and ended with an RBI single to right field, The Travs bullpen preserved the lead, with Jack Anderson, Moises Gomez and Darin Gillies holding the Cardinals to 4 hits and 2 runs over the final 4 innings.
Cowgill said Friday night’s announced crowd of 5,042 also helped his team, a group of players who have been waiting for their chance to shine in front of fans.
“These kids deserve to play in front of fans,” he said. “That was a great atmosphere tonight.” Cowgill said there is no question that there are certain parts of Dickey-Stephens that can be classified as “no-fly zones.” Anything hit to center, left of center or just right of center don’t stand much of a chance, but balls like the one McGovern hit in the second inning to straightaway right field — and a ball hit by Springfield’s David Vinsky in the eighth inning, a 391-foot shot with an exit velocity of 106 mph — found their way out.
The key, McGovern said, is to stay in the process.
“We’re still trying to think about just really putting good swings on the balls,” he said. “If that means we end up hitting another 6-7 home runs, we’re OK with that.”
ARKANSAS TRAVELERS VS. SPRINGFIELD CARDINALS
WHEN 6:10 p.m.
WHERE Dickey-Stephens Park, North Little Rock RADIO KARN-AM, 920, in central Arkansas WEBSITE travs.com PITCHERS Travs: RHP Devin Sweet (0-0, 0.00 ERA); Cardinals: LHP Domingo Robles (0-0, 0.87 ERA) TICKETS $12 box (available in pods of 1, 2, 4, 6); $8 reserved (available in pods of 1, 2 3, 4, 6); $6 general admission. Available only online at travs.com; no in-person sales.
PROMOTIONS Calendar giveaway. Kids run the bases.
THE WEEK AHEAD
TODAY vs. Springfield, 7:10 p.m.
SUNDAY vs. Springfield, 2:10 p.m.
MONDAY Off TUESDAY at Corpus Christi, 6:35 p.m.
WEDNESDAY at Corpus Christi, 6:35 p.m.
THURSDAY at Corpus Christi, 6:35 p.m.
FRIDAY at Corpus Christi, 7:05 p.m.