Drillers edge Naturals, force split in series
DRILLERS 7, NATURALS 6
SPRINGDALE — Northwest Arkansas had the Texas League’s best record in onerun games entering Saturday’s series finale with Tulsa.
The Drillers, however, turned the tables in order to manage a split in the fourgame series. Erick Mejia’s eighth- inning single past a drawn-in infield allowed Errol Robinson to score and give Tulsa a 7-6 victory over the Naturals at Arvest Ballpark.
Robinson belted a one-out single in the eighth against reliever Jake Kalish ( 0- 4), then stole second. An errant throw allowed him to take third before Mejia’s single went up the middle and into center field.
“We didn’t execute a couple of pitches late with our bullpen and the way they’ve been throwing,” said Northwest Arkansas manager Vance Wilson, whose team’s record in one- run games dropped to 21-12.
The Naturals (50-42 overall, 11-11 second half) took a 6-3 lead into the seventh, but Tulsa started the inning with a walk to Henry Ramos and a single by Matt Beaty. Kalish, who had relieved starter Glenn Sparkman in the fourth, picked up a pair of strikeouts, but Blake Gailen belted a three-run shot over the right-field fence to tie the game.
“Kalish had been good and had a three- run lead,” Wilson said. “He just left the ball up a little to Gailen, and Gailen put a good swing on the three-run home run. Unfortunately, that’s the way the game goes.
“He just got into a little bit of trouble. I thought we should have made a play up the middle, but we didn’t. He comes back and strikes the next two guys out — one being (Jose) Fernandez, who is hard to strike out. Sometimes you let up a little bit, and the next thing you know a fastball is up the middle and the guy hits it out.”
Northwest Arkansas bounced back from an early 3-0 deficit with four runs
in the fourth against Tulsa starter Walker Buehler, who struck out seven through the first three innings. After Buehler walked the bases loaded, Alfredo Escalera hit a sacrifice fly, followed by an RBI single by Nick Dini and a two-run double by Cody Jones.
The Naturals stretched their lead to 6-3 with a pair of unearned runs in the sixth. Dini picked up his second RBI single after Humberto Arteaga reached on an error, then a second miscue on a Nicky Lopez grounder allowed Donnie Dewees Jr. to score.
Northwest Arkansas then had a chance to tie the game in the ninth as Samir Duenez doubled into the left-field corner with two out. Anderson Miller, however, grounded out to short to end the game.
■ Saturday’s game was played with only two working umpires after Tyler Olson was injured by a foul ball during the fourth inning of Friday’s game. A replacement umpire will join the duo of crew chief Sean Allen, who worked behind the plate, and Malachi Moore for their next series.
■ Dini was 3- for- 3 and reached base for times for the Naturals. He had a leadoff double in the third, then drew a walk in the eighth.
■ Beaty avoided injury went he went over the railing and into the stands in shallow left field as he chased a foul ball during the fourth inning. The Drillers’ trainers raced toward Beaty, but he came back on the field minutes later and continued to play.
On Deck: Northwest Arkansas begin a four- game series at Springfield today, with first pitch slated for 6:10 p.m. Right-hander Corey Ray (5-6, 4.19 ERA) will start on the mound for the Naturals, while the Cardinals will counter with right- hander Zac Gallen (1-2, 3.04). Northwest Arkansas returns home Thursday to start another four-game series with Tulsa.
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FRIDAY’S GAME NATURALS 2, DRILLERS 1
SPRINGDALE — Samir Duenez launched a sacrifice fly deep to right field to drive in the winning run in Northwest Arkansas’ 2-1 victory over Tulsa in 12 innings at Arvest Ballpark on Friday.
The inning began when Allan de San Miguel singled to left but then was thrown out on fielder’s choice that allowed Cody Jones to reach first. Jones advanced to third on on a single by Nicky Lopez. An intentional walk then loaded the bases with one out for Duenez, who drove in Jones to begin a celebration with teammates leaping around first base and even included icy water from a bucket being flung in Duenez’s direction.
Before Duenez stepped into the batter’s box, the Drillers brought an outfielder into play infield, putting three defenders on the grass on the right side where the left-handed, pull-hitting Duenez typically would hit. It didn’t matter because Duenez hit a moonshot well over the defensive adjustment to end the game that lasted more than four hours.
Northwest Arkansas (50-41, 11-10 during second half of season) struck first when Lopez led off the game with a triple to right-center field before scoring on a grounder to first by Duenez. The score stood through the next seven innings before Tulsa (46-45, 13-8) evened it up at 1-1 on Darien Tubbs’ RBI double to right field to drive in Matt Beaty in the eighth.
In extra innings, the Naturals squandered their first scoring opportunity.
Duenez, who was 0- for- 4 heading into his 11th inning at-bat, led off with a line-drive single to left. With two outs, Duenez stole second base, putting the winning run in scoring position. Donnie Dewees Jr., who was 2-for-4, was then intentionally walked to bring pinch hitter Nick Dini to the plate.
When Dini lined a single to left, it gave the Naturals’ a chance to end the game. Manager Vance Wilson sent Duenez home, but Tubbs one-hopped a laser throw to catcher Garrett Kennedy to nail Duenez and send it into the 12th.
After the Drillers got the leadoff man aboard when Jose Fernandez reached on a bloop single in the top of the ninth, Tim Hill struck out Peter O’Brien swinging before escaping by getting Quincy Lattimore to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Hill then gave up a two-out walk to Tubbs in then 10th, and it was followed by a single to left by Garrett Kennedy, but Hill induced a groundout to keep the score tied and the Naturals chances alive.
Naturals starter Emilio Oganda was solid while pitching five shutout innings. He scattered seven hits, including three infield singles, walked one and struck out six.
Tulsa’s Errol Robinson swiped second base twice during the game but was not successful on his third stolen base attempt in the 11th inning. Hill, a left-handed pitcher, caught Robinson leaving on first movement on a pickoff to first base. Robinson sprinted toward second but was tagged out.
Friday’s game was delayed by about 10 minutes with home plate umpire Tyler Olson was injured by a foul ball in the fourth inning. Play resumed with just two umpires when Olson was replaced behind the plate by Malachi Moore, who began the game at third base.
Another short delay occurred before the start of the third inning when a young fan dangled her feet through the rails and off the left-field wall before Naturals left-fielder Cody Jones jogged out to let her know that was not allowed.
Henry Apple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAHenry.
Mike Capshaw can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NWACappy.