Willie Calhoun opened his Round Rock home run account, while his new manager reached a career milestone Thursday night.
The slugger, playing in his second game with the Express, hit his first home run in a Round Rock uniform to help them beat the Albuquerque Isotopes 6-1 at Dell Diamond. The win was manager Jason Wood’s 500th career win.
“I liked what I saw tonight,” Wood said. “Calhoun and (third baseman Tyler) Smith have stepped in and know their roles and know what they had to do and how they fit in. They come to work every day and don’t try to do too much.”
Wood has been a manager in the Rangers’ organization since 2011. He spent three years with High-A Myrtle Beach and reached the Carolina League semifinals all there years. He spent one year with the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders and made it to the Texas League semifinals.
Since taking over as Round Rock manager in 2015, Wood has amassed a 197-197 record, finished in first place in the American Southern Division once and made a Pacific Coast League semifinals appearance.
“I’ve been in this game a long time and I’ve persevered in this game a long time,” Wood said. “I was not one individual that has done this alone. I give all my coaches and staff all the credit in the world. It’s nice to watch a quality baseball game, too.”
Tyler Wagner (3-9, 6.46 ERA) earned the win for Round Rock thanks to his second straight quality start. The Express Opening Day starter allowed one run on just two hits with four strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work. He gave up just two runs on four hits in his last start on July 28.
“He’s been great his last three outings,” Wood said. “He’s got us deep in the game. He had a little trouble earlier in the season with big innings. He’s found a way to stay out of them. He’s one of the hardest workers on the staff and that doesn’t go unnoticed.”
Calhoun opened hit Round Rock account when he launched a 1-1 pitch to the porch in left field. The 22-year-old mashed 23 homers during his time with Triple-A Oklahoma City before being traded to the Texas organization ahead of Monday’s trade deadline.
Brett Hays advanced to second on an error to start the third inning and scored two pitches later when Jared Hoying smacked a single up the middle. Calhoun notched his second RBI of the game with a single and Will Middlebrooks drove in the third run of the inning with a sacrifice fly.
Albuquerque’s Ryan McMahon drilled a home run, clearing the bullpen in right field, to cut the lead to 4-1 in the fourth. It was the 20th home run Webster has given up this season, most on the team and tied for third most in the PCL.
But Round Rock got the run back in the bottom half of the inning. With runners on the corners and one out, Doug Bernier hit a sacrifice fly to center field and Pete Kozma trotted home from third base.
Ronald Guzman extended his hitting streak to seven games with a single up the middle and Kozma drove in his second run of the game three batters later with a start shingle that bounced off the mound and into the outfield.
The Express play 19 games in the next 19 days with the second of a four-game series against the Isotopes set for 7:05 on Friday. Anthony Bass (1-5, 4.50 ERA) will get the ball for Round Rock.
After games against Albuquerque on Saturday and Sunday, the Express hit the road for a 12-game road trip beginning Monday in Colorado Springs and continuing to Oklahoma City and New Orleans.
“It’s kind of fun to see these guys come together,” Wood said. “Some of the new faces here coming in and gelling. Having veterans like Pete Kozma and Doug Bernier, it helps the young kids to see them play hard every day. It’s going to be a good run the rest of the way.”