Sopko stifles NWA; Tulsa holds on to win
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.”
■ 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.
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On The Web: www.nwa naturals.com
Tulsa starting pitcher Andrew Sopko delivers to the plate Thursday against the Naturals at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale.
Tulsa’s Blake Gailen (left) is tagged out by Naturals first baseman Samir Duenez on a pick-off play Thursday.