Naturals take series opener against Tulsa
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.
■ 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.
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On The Web: www.nwa naturals.com
Naturals’ Anderson Miller lines a ball toward second base, where Tulsa’s Erick Mejia made a diving stop Wednesday at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale.