Collins Robinson strikes out nine in Salina Stockade baseball's first home win
EL DORADO—Winning hasn't come easy to the Salina Stockade this season but they've also been on the road for 35 of their first 35 games of the season.
When they stepped foot into McDonald Stadium on Wednesday nigh for their first "home" opener, it just felt different.
"We're not used to people cheering for us," second baseman Caleb Rosario said. "It was a bit weird at first but it was really nice to hear and see."
El Dorado turned out almost 100 spectators to a team who had not played in front of more than 25 people in the last five years. In return the Stockade won their first home game in more than six years, beating the Trinidad Triggers 6-5 in game that saw players picking up money at home plate, a sliding catch and a three-run home run that almost carried to El Dorado Lake.
"I think people got a good taste of what the Pecos League is about," player-manager Tom Fitzpatrick, who is often referred to as "Fitzmagic" said. "It's different than you're other leagues but we have a lot of guys in our league who will be playing or should be playing affiliated ball."
The great grandson of Jackie Robinson pitched a whale of a game for the Stockade. Collins Robinson, the standout pitcher mowed through the Trinidad lineup with ease on Wednesday night, striking out nine as he picked up the victory.
Robinson is now 1-2 as a pitcher this season.
Robinson, who is from Tuscaloosa, Alabama had not gone more than five innings in a game this season, pitched seven innings, twice pitching out of jams and his defense picked up him with a couple of double-play balls.
"Collins [Robinson] pitched a great game with only one bad pitch," Fitzpatrick said. "Unfortunately, that one pitch they knocked it out of here but we wanted five innings out of him and he gave us seven really good innings.
Will Hicks followed it up with a perfect eighth and Jesse Bolt picked up the save in the ninth.
"I know what we've been through this season but we have all the confidence in the world in our bullpen," Rosario said.
It wasn't all roses and sunshine in this one for the Stockade. They fell behind 5-1 after Matt Harrison of Trinidad hit a three-run home run over the left field fence in the third inning. Jordan Gonzales had also scored two run on a bases loaded single.
The come back
The Stockade put their bats to work in the bottom of the fourth inning but putting the Tiggers (16-22) into tough positions. It paid off as two errors drove in three runs on two throwing errors to bring the Stockade within 5-4.
In the sixth inning, after a Rosario single and a Robinson walk, it was Tevin Brown again. Brown doubled to score Robinson and Rosario with only one out and to give the Stockade the 6-5 advantage.
That's all they would need as the bullpen would lock it down.
"If we can get good quality starts, we are going to win games," Fitzpatrick said.
Passing the hat
One unique thing in the Pecos league is how they reward the players.
After a player hits a home run or turns out an impressive pitching performance for the home team, the fans "pass the hat." It means passing a hat literally around the stands for a collection of money in return to show appreciation for the impressive performance put on the player.
"What that is is just the fan showing appreciation for the fact that the guys don't get paid that much," Fitzpatrick said.
Usually, the prize money is awarded to only the home team but on Wednesday, there was a little mix up as Harrison was given the money after his home run in the third inning.
Someone comes out and dumps the money on home plate and the player scoops it up.
Robinson, who struck out nine, said he's going to treat his teammates with his winnings.
"Oh yeah, we'll get some Wendy's or something," Robinson said.
The Stockade now have won three of their last seven and a lot of that can be contributed to consistency in the roster. Many players admitted the coming and going of players early in the season attributed to their early season struggles.
"Chemistry is everything," Rosario said. "We're starting to get that now and when you're on the road you're forced to have the chemistry and bond."
Fitzpatrick admits getting the managerial job right before the start of training camp handicapped the team a bit.
"They approached me right as we were starting training camp for this position," Fitzpatricks aid. "So, learning how to get guys to help us and make it the right guys has a learning curve. I think we've got the right guys now and it showed tonight."
Many said the roster is set as the trade deadline in the league has passed with little movement from the Stockade. There were some at the league level who thought Jordan Anderson, the team's leading hitter, would have been moved but he was in the lineup on Wednesday and is expected to be for the remainder of the season.
After playing 35 games on the road, the sights of a home field advantage can be really nice for some players and not a one had a bad thing to say about historic McDonald Stadium.
Almost 100 people showed up to cheer on the Stockade in their first game and it caused a little butterflies at first.
"You see that and you get a little nervous," Robinson said on the fans. "We haven't had anyone cheering for us all season and it was great. We're professionals so we play for ourselves and the fans."
"This is a super nice stadium," Rosario said. "I had only seen pictures but it's great. The fans were great. You always want people cheering for you and when we were on the road they never did."
Fitzpatrick appreciates the history in the stadium, calling himself a bit of a baseball historian. For a stadium built in 1940, that probably fits right into his wheel house.
"The wooden fence is a nice tough and the stands feel really old school," Fitzpatrick said. "I really enjoyed it all and the grass with the turf is a nice touch."
Commissioner Andrew Dunn raved about it throughout the entire game in the press box, touting it as one of the best fields in the league already. Even some of the Trinidad players were impressed with how nice the stadium is.
Maybe home field advantage will be a thing for the Stockade.
The Stockade will play the Trinidad Triggers four more times in the series and then at the beginning of August, they will host the Garden City Wind for a two-game series to wrap up the regular season.
All home games start at 6:35 p.m. weather permitting.