Naturals avoid sweep
NATURALS 6, MISSIONS 3
SPRINGDALE — Alfredo Escalera picked a perfect time for his first extra-base hit in three weeks, as it was the difference in Northwest Arkansas’ 6-3 win against San Antonio on Tuesday.
With the bases loaded in the second inning, Escalera hit a hard grounder just inside the chalk line and out of reach of diving third baseman Ty France. Three runs scored on the double, as Alberth Martinez struggled to corral the ball in the left-field corner of Arvest Ballpark.
Naturals manager Vance Wilson, coaching third base, hesitated for a split second before waving home the third run.
“The read on that is where your guy is, how the left fielder throws and where he’s at,” Wilson said. “It wasn’t that he didn’t come up with it clean, it just took him to where his back was to the field and as soon as you see him have to turn his back, his throw is not going to have much on it.”
Northwest Arkansas avoided a sweep in front of a crowd of 7,554 after San Antonio won the first two games of the three-game series 1-0 and 5-3. It was the third win against the Texas League South Division-leading Missions in nine games this season.
“They’re a good team,” Wilson said. “We played it tight the first two games. There is a lot of emotion when we have a big crowd and for us to keep our cool and composure and be able to keep the lead, I’m proud of them.”
Escalera’s bases-clearing double spotted the Naturals a 3-0 lead and provided cushion for starting pitcher Emilio Ogando,
who worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning. It began with a double by Stephen McGee and a single by Peter Van Gansen. Following a pop out and strikeout, a two-out walk loaded the bases for Franmil Reyes, the Missions’ clean-up batter. But Ogando got Reyes to ground out to escape unscathed.
After an RBI single by Humberto Arteaga pushed Northwest Arkansas’ lead to 4-0 in the third, the Missions made it interesting with Nick Schulz’ two-run double off the centerfield wall in the fifth inning.
But late solo homers late by Zach Walters and Anderson Miller extended the margin. Walters, who had three hits, crushed a shot that curled around the right field foul pole in the seventh and Miller followed with a moon shot over the left-field wall in the eighth.
■ Missions manager Phillip Wellman was ejected by first base umpire Jeff Gorman after vehemently arguing when Franmil Reyes grounded into a double play the top of the eighth inning. Reyes later was ejected as well. In the seventh, Missions hitting coach Lance Burkhart was ejected while arguing that Walters homer should have been ruled foul.
■ Ogando was aided by a pair of double plays, including one he began after giving up a leadoff single the McGee in the fifth. In the second, third baseman Jack Lopez snagged a hot shot, stepped on third and fired to first base for an inning-ending double play. ■ Three of the Naturals first five hits were bloop singles, with all three fitting the definition of “Texas Leaguer.” That’s when a ball lands safely on the outfield grass between the outfielders rushing in and the infielders rushing out.
On Deck: After wrapping up a six-game homestand on Tuesday, the Naturals make the long trek to Corpus Christi for a three-game series. It begins at 7:05 p.m. today with the Naturals sending right-handed pitcher Corey Ray (5-4, 4.19) up against Hooks right-hander Collin McHugh (0-0, 36.00).
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HOOKS 4, TRAVELERS 1
Garrett Stubbs homered and had three hits, and Framber Valdez struck out nine hitters over six innings as the Corpus Christi Hooks topped the Arkansas Travelers 4-1 on Tuesday.
Valdez (1-1) picked up the win after he walked three while allowing one run and two hits.
Up 2-0 in the sixth, Corpus Christi extended its lead when Stubbs hit a solo home run.
The Travelers cut into the deficit in the seventh inning when Dario Pizzano scored on a ground out.
The Hooks tacked on another run in the ninth when Arturo Michelena scored on a wild pitch.
Justin DeFratus (2-5) went six innings, allowing three runs and nine hits in the Texas League game. He also struck out two and walked one. Andrew Thome pitched 12/3 scoreless innings for his sixth save of the season.