Sopko sti­fles NWA; Tulsa holds on to win

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BASEBALL - PAUL BOYD

SPRING­DALE — Tulsa pitcher Andy Sopko con­tin­ued his dom­i­nance against North­west Ar­kan­sas and got plenty of sup­port on Thurs­day night at Ar­vest Ball­park.

The right-han­der shack­led North­west Ar­kan­sas for the third straight start to help Tulsa (13-7) hold on for a 5-4 win in front of 3,293 fans.

Tulsa, who leads the Texas League North Di­vi­sion, took a 2-1 lead in the sec­ond in­ning against Nat­u­rals starter Josh Stau­mont (0-1) after Erick Me­jia and Gar­rett Kennedy ham­mered back-to-back RBI dou­bles. The runs erased a 1-0 North­west Ar­kan­sas (10-10) lead. Tulsa pushed the lead to 5-2 with a run in the fifth and two more in the sev­enth.

But North­west Ar­kan­sas got within 5-4 on Hum­berto Arteaga’s two-run sin­gle in the ninth. Drillers closer Corey Cop­ping struck out Don­nie De­wees Jr. and got Al­fredo Es­calera to ground out to notch his eighth save.

Sopko (2-4) al­lowed two runs on six hits over seven in­nings to pick up the win. He struck out four and did not walk a bat­ter. Although he failed to record a win in ei­ther of his last two starts against North­west Ar­kan­sas, he al­lowed just one run over 10 in­nings in those games.

North­west Ar­kan­sas man­ager Vance Wil­son said his hit­ters had trou­ble read­ing Sopko. On the other hand, Nat­u­rals starter Josh Stau­mont had some good and bad in his first start since be­ing sent down from Triple-A Omaha.

“He did a good job,” Wil­son said.” This ball­park and Spring­field, the twi­light’s pretty tough any­way. If you get a guy who’s de­cep­tive. It makes it tough to see, es­pe­cially a guy like him who moves it around pretty good. We got jammed on a cou­ple off-speed pitches, which you don’t see very of­ten.

“I thought early Stau­mont’s me­chan­ics were much bet­ter than they had been. It’s a process get­ting him back to where he had been. Ob­vi­ously, he strug­gled in Triple-A the past month. It will click. What’s go­ing to take time is the con­sis­tency of it.”

SHORT HOPS

■ Stau­mont, rated as the Kansas City Roy­als’ top prospect by Base­ball Amer­ica, al­lowed two runs (both earned) on six hits over 3 and two-thirds in­nings. He struck out three and walked two, but threw just 38 of 72 pitches for strikes.

■ Nat­u­rals right fielder An­der­son Miller threw out Me­jia try­ing to stretch a sin­gle into a dou­ble from the right field corner in the fourth in­ning to help keep Tulsa off the score­board.

■ Samir Duenez was the Nat­u­rals’ lone hit­ter with more than one hit, go­ing 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.

On Deck: The Nat­u­rals con­tinue their four-game series/home­s­tand against Tulsa. Emilio Ogando (6-6 3.54 ERA) starts on the mound for North­west Ar­kan­sas, while the Drillers counter with Josh Sborz (4-6 4.36 ERA). He picked up the win the last time Sborz faced the Nat­u­rals, al­low­ing two earned runs over seven in­nings.

To­day’s Pro­mo­tion: There will be post-game fire­works.

On The Air: KQSM-FM 92.1

On The Web: www.nwa nat­u­rals.com

Spe­cial to NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID BEACH

Tulsa start­ing pitcher An­drew Sopko de­liv­ers to the plate Thurs­day against the Nat­u­rals at Ar­vest Ball­park in Spring­dale.

Spe­cial to NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID BEACH

Tulsa’s Blake Gailen (left) is tagged out by Nat­u­rals first base­man Samir Duenez on a pick-off play Thurs­day.

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