Nat­u­rals take se­ries opener against Tulsa

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BASEBALL/CYCLING -

NAT­U­RALS 7, DRILLERS 4

SPRINGDALE — A great de­fen­sive play may have robbed Northwest Arkansas of the go-ahead run at one point, but an er­ror al­lowed the Nat­u­rals to take the lead for good, any­way.

Tulsa sec­ond base­man Erick Mejia’s wild throw on a fielder’s choice al­lowed Jack Lopez to cross the plate to give Northwest Arkansas a lead it didn’t re­lin­quish en route to a 7-4 vic­tory over the Drillers to be­gin a fourgame se­ries Wed­nes­day night at Ar­vest Ball­park.

The Nat­u­rals (49-40 over­all, 10-9) over­came a four-run sec­ond by Tulsa and gave start­ing pitcher Foster Grif­fin (7-1) his sixth straight vic­tory. The left-han­der earned the win de­spite al­low­ing all four Driller runs on eight hits, while re­liev­ers Richard Love­lady and Jake New­berry com­bined for four score­less in­nings to pre­serve the vic­tory.

“He went to the Fu­tures Game and not on his nor­mal rou­tine,” Northwest Arkansas man­ager said of Grif­fin. “Some­times you can see that af­fect play­ers, es­pe­cially kids. Other than that one in­ning, he threw the ball real well.”

The Nat­u­rals trailed 4-3 go­ing into the bot­tom of the fourth, but the in­ning be­gan with walks to Lo­gan Moon and Lopez, and a bunt sin­gle by Nicky Lopez loaded the bases. Moon then came home with the ty­ing run when Samir Duenez smashed a grounder that Mejia snagged on a div­ing stop to his left.

In­stead of throw­ing to first for the easy out, Mejia chose to throw to sec­ond and get Nicky Lopez for the force out there. But the ball sailed away from short­stop Er­rol Robin­son, which al­lowed Jack Lopez to score to give the Nat­u­rals a 5-4 edge.

“That’s one good thing about our guys — they run hard,” Wil­son said. “That way, if the other team gives you an op­por­tu­nity, we’re ready to go. It was great base-run­ning by Jack Lopez, and a good de­ci­sion by Nicky to stay at sec­ond and let that run score.”

Duenez, whose RBI ground­out gave Northwest Arkansas a 1- 0 lead in the first, gave the Nat­u­rals ex­tra cush­ion in the eighth with his 12th home run of the sea­son. He fol­lowed a Jack Lopez sin­gle with a 412-foot bomb over the right-field fence.

SHORT HOPS

■ Grif­fin, who al­lowed tworun home runs to Quincy La­ti­more and Tim Lo­cas­tro in the sec­ond in­ning, has al­lowed four home runs in his last two starts. He al­lowed just four home runs dur­ing his first 17 starts, which were split be­tween Class-A Ad­vanced Wilm­ing­ton and Northwest Arkansas.

■ Nat­u­rals lead­off hit­ter Jack Lopez reached base four

times in five plate ap­pear­ances, in­clud­ing a dou­ble in the first in­ning. He also drew a pair of walks, in­clud­ing an in­ten­tional base on balls in the fifth.

■ Tulsa starter Chris Rearick be­gan to limp and was forced to leave the game with one out in the third in­ning. The left- han­der al­lowed three runs on six hits.

On Deck: The two teams con­tinue their four- game se­ries to­day, with first pitch slated for 7:05 p.m. Northwest Arkansas will send right-han­der Josh Stau­mont to the mound for his first start since join­ing the Nat­u­rals from Triple-A Omaha, while Tulsa will counter with right-han­der Andrew Sopko (1-4, 3.51)

To­day’s Pro­mo­tion: It’s Buck Night and Thirsty Thurs­day — fans can en­joy small soft drinks and moz­zarella cheese sticks for $1, as well as bags of peanuts and small draft beers for $2 at spe­cific lo­ca­tions.

On The Air: KQSM-FM 92.1

On The Web: www.nwa nat­u­rals.com

Spe­cial to NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID BEACH

Nat­u­rals’ An­der­son Miller lines a ball to­ward sec­ond base, where Tulsa’s Erick Mejia made a div­ing stop Wed­nes­day at Ar­vest Ball­park in Springdale.

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