Naturals complete sweep of Corpus Christi
SPRINGDALE — If Donnie Dewees Jr. had hit a shorter grounder Saturday night, Northwest Arkansas might have wasted a bases-loaded opportunity Saturday night.
Instead, two runners crossed the plate as a result of his fourth-inning dribbler in front of the plate, and the Naturals went on to complete a three-game sweep of Corpus Christi with a 6-3 victory at Arvest Ballpark.
“Sometimes that happens,” Northwest Arkansas manager Vance Wilson said. “You smoke balls right at guys, then you do something like that. So again, that’s putting the ball in play and making something happen.
The Naturals (45-34 overall, 6-3 second half) used Zach Walters’ single, Anderson Miller’s walk and a Corpus Christi error on Humberto Arteaga’s grounder to third to load the bases with one out in the fourth. Dewees followed with his dribbler in front of the plate, which allowed Walters to score as the ball went far enough where Hooks catcher Jamie Ritchie couldn’t field it and go back to home in time for the force out.
Ritchie then made an errant throw to first, allowing Miller to score. Nick Dini made it a 3-0 lead moments later when his single drove in Arteaga.
“I was watching because it was almost going to be interference on their pitcher,” Wilson said. “He was coming to home plate and almost hit our runner, so I was watching that. Obviously the ball sailed.”
Naturals starter Foster Griffin (6-1) made that lead stand with his third straight quality start. The left-hander, who will be the Kansas City Royals’ lone representative in the Sirius/XM Futures Game, threw six-plus innings and allowed two runs on five hits while striking out a season-high 10 in a 101-pitch performance.
Corpus Christi (38-41, 4-5) made the game interesting when it cut Northwest Arkansas’ lead to 4-3 in the seventh. The Hooks then had the tying run at third in both the seventh and eighth innings and had the tying run at the plate in the ninth.
“Again, our bullpen wasn’t great,” Wilson said. “(Sam) Selman and (Jake) Newberry are obviously better than that. It’s been a while since they had pitched with the crazy All-Star break. Foster Griffin gave us a great start.”
■ The sweep was Northwest Arkansas’ first over Corpus Christi since the 2011 season, and it marked the fifth series sweep over the Hooks in the Naturals’ 10-year existence. It also ties the all-time series record between the two teams at 58-58.
■ Miller, who had one hit in his first two games with the Naturals, had two hits Saturday, including an RBI single in the fifth to give Northwest Arkansas a 4-0 cushion.
■ Leadoff hitter Nicky Lopez recorded his first RBI as a Natural when his two-out single drove in Arteaga, who had earlier reached on a fielder’s choice. Logan Moon added another RBI single in the eighth for the Naturals’ run.
On Deck: Northwest Arkansas continues its six-game homestand against South Division teams today as the Naturals welcome San Antonio for a three-game series. Lefthander Jake Kalish (0-1, 3.54 ERA) will start on the mound for the Naturals for the 4:05 p.m. game, while the Missions will start right-hander Eric Lauer, who is making his Double-A debut.
Today’s Promotion: The first 1,500 fans to today’s game will receive a commemorative “Season 10” t-shirt courtesy of Unify Financial Credit Union. It’s also Family Sunday as kids 12 and under will receive a voucher for a hot dog, chips and 12-ounce drink, and kids can run the bases after the game is over.
On The Air: KQSM-FM 92.1
On The Web: www.nwa naturals.com
FRIDAY’S LATE GAME NATURALS 8, HOOKS 7
SPRINGDALE — Northwest Arkansas took an early lead against Major League rehabber Collin McHugh, but the Naturals needed a really late rally to claim an 8-7 win over Corpus Christi in a game that included a near two-hour rain delay and ended after midnight Saturday morning.
Nick Dini’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth scored Donnie Dewees Jr. snapped a 7-7 tie in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Naturals (5-3, 44-34) trailed 7-4 after five innings, but tied it on Dewees’ two-run double in the sixth. They put runners on first and third with nobody out in the eighth, but failed to score.
However, Dewees led off the bottom of the ninth with a triple — his fourth hit of the night. Humberto Arteaga tried a safety squeeze, but bunted it back to the pitcher and Dewees stayed. Corpus Christi reliever Ryan Thompson (0-2) Arteaga out at first. Dini followed with a line drive to center field. Dewees tagged up and slid in just ahead of a strong relay throw.
Northwest Arkansas manager Vance Wilson was proud of his team’s resiliency, after seeing an early 4-2 lead turn into a 7-4 deficit. The effort of reliever Yunior Marte wasn’t lost either, despite struggling when the Hooks scored four runs in the fifth. The righthander making his Double-A debut bounced back with two scoreless innings.
Richard Lovelady (1-0), also making his Double-A debut, followed Marte with two scoreless innings of relief.