Only two teams in all professional baseball entered play on Sunday unbeaten in 2024 – and one survived.

Matt Lloyd smashed a 3-run homer in the eighth inning to rally Springfield past Wichita, 8-7, and – with the High-A Spokane Indians falling to Tri-City – the Double-A Cardinals (9-0) stand alone.

Ian Bedell pitches for the Springfield Cardinals – April 14, 2024 – Photo by PJ Maigi

“This is unbelievable, the way the guys are playing right now – and you know, they’re not satisfied. They’re going day-by-day, they’re enjoying the moment, obviously,” Springfield manager Jose Leger said.

“Our pitching has been the cornerstone – what we like out of our pitchers is the fact that they’re attacking the strike zone. They’re just having fun hanging zeroes there. Yeah, definitely a great start.”

A warm breeze gusted out of hitter-friendly Hammons Field during the six-game series, but the Wind Surge looked uncomfortable against Springfield’s young guns. Cards’ hurlers boast a 1.10 WHIP and they’ve turned the opposition into Mario Mendoza, yielding a paltry .201 average over 78 innings – best in the Texas League in both categories.

Tink Hence (2-0, 0.90 ERA, 11 Ks) fanned eight over five innings in Springfield’s 3-1 win in Game 1 of Friday’s doubleheader that set the tone for the weekend.

“We have a heck of a staff – top to bottom, from Tink to anyone of the guys in the bullpen,” righthander Ian Bedell said after he struck out seven and earned the decision in Game 2.  “We can feed off that energy for sure, everybody is pounding the zone.”

The rotation is anchored by four prospects in the Cardinals’ Top 20 per Hence (No.1), Tekoah Roby (No.2), Max Rajcic (No. 13) and Bedell (No. 19). All four starters picked up victories during the Cards’ nine-game streak.

“Mizzou-made” Bedell dominated Wichita with the slider in his Double-A debut after an ominous start.

Wind Surge DH Emmanuel Rodriguez took an outside pitch over the left-field wall for a lead-off homer and the Wind Surge loaded the bases with one out in the second inning. But the Cards’ 2020 fourth rounder yielded a sacrifice fly, then escaped further damage.

“Third inning, the focus was ‘win each pitch’, and that helped settle me in a little bit better,” Bedell said. “I was working incredibly quick and not giving myself enough time to breathe and think through what I’m trying to do. Once I settled in, everything started to go smoothly.”

Bedell punched out a pair in the third inning and induced a double-play ball that erased a lead-off walk in the fourth.

Bedell rung up the last two hitters he faced in the fifth inning; he caught Rodriguez looking at a fastball on the inner half, then brought first baseman Andrew Cossetti to his knees with an off-speed pitch to notch his seventh K.

“I wanted to land more changeups than I did, the goal was to land some right-on-right changeups and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that overly well. But the slider was working so I decided to stick with that and then just try to elevate some fastballs and get in on their hands to keep them honest with the slider,” he said.

Bedell grew up a Cardinals fan in Davenport, Iowa hoping to be the next Colby Rasmus.

“I had a dream of being a centerfielder and it was not in the cards – nowhere near a good enough hitter,” he said.

Instead, he developed a four-pitch mix with a low 90’s fastball and embraced the science of pitching.

“I like to look at first-pitch strikes and what I do in 1-1 counts. The goal is to win over 65 percent of both of those – so get ahead and get to 1-2 or 0-2 as quick as possible. And then being able to put guys away.”

Springfield is off Monday and travels to Amarillo for a six-game series against the Sodpoodles starting Tuesday.


Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll is a freelance sports writer living in the Ozarks with his wife and four great kids. He loves St. Louis, toasted ravioli and minor league baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @carroll_sgf and Instagram @andycarroll505