Naturals hand­cuffed in sixth straight loss

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SCOREBOARD - CHIP SOUZA

SPRING­DALE — Three Tulsa pitch­ers stymied North­west Arkansas, hand­ing the Naturals their sixth straight loss 2-1 Thurs­day night in front of 3,629 at Ar­vest Ball­park.

The Drillers (49-48) put to­gether just enough of­fense in the sev­enth in­ning to erase a 1-0 North­west Arkansas lead and win the first game of this four-game se­ries.

North­west Arkansas man­aged just six hits, all off Drillers starter David Hale (1-0), who earned the win. Tulsa re­liev­ers Brian Mo­ran and Corey Cop­ping dom­i­nated the Naturals over the fi­nal 2 in­nings, al­low­ing no hits while punch­ing out six.

“That’s a good team,” Naturals man­ager Vance Wil­son said of the Drillers. “They threw a crafty guy at us to start and we couldn’t put much to­gether. We had a real good of­fen­sive night last night, but tonight we couldn’t put any­thing to­gether. We just scuf­fled.”

The Naturals (50-47) grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the third in­ning when nine­hole hit­ter Car­los Diaz led off with a walk and moved to sec­ond on Hale’s balk. A fly­out moved Diaz to third, and he scored on Samir Duenez’s sin­gle.

North­west Arkansas starter Glenn Spark­man was solid over five in­nings, al­low­ing just four hits and no runs, but left in the sixth with two-on and no one out. Naturals re­liever Jake Kal­ish put out the fire with a dou­ble-play and a weak pop-up

to third to keep the Drillers off the board.

Tulsa fi­nally broke through in the sev­enth off Kal­ish (0-5). Blake Gailen reached on a swing­ing bunt, and ad­vanced to sec­ond on Kal­ish’s throw­ing er­ror that sailed wide of first and down the right-field line. Erick Me­jia smoked a two-out, ground-rule dou­ble to score Gailen.

Me­jia scored on Darien Tubbs’ RBI sin­gle for what proved to be the win­ning run.

That was all Tulsa needed with Mo­ran and Cop­ping mow­ing down the Naturals the rest of the way.

“There’s some­thing to be said about a guy who comes in and throws nine pitches in the last in­ning,” Wil­son said of Cop­ping, who hit 96 mph twice in that ninepitch out­ing. “We have to be a lit­tle more com­pet­i­tive. I wasn’t real happy with that, but that kid is good.”

SHORT HOPS

■ Duenez had two of North­west Arkansas’ six hits and the only RBI to raise his bat­ting av­er­age to .270.

■ Gailen had a big night for Tulsa at the plate. The des­ig­nated hit­ter was 3-for-4 with and scored a run to raise his av­er­age to .321.

■ The game marked the fourth straight meet­ing of these two teams where the out­come was de­cided by one run.

On Deck: The teams will take the field at 7:05 p.m. for game two of this four-game se­ries. The Naturals will send RHP Corey Ray (5-7, 4.50 ERA) to the mound to take on Drillers’ RHP Ed­die Gamboa (1-0, 3.00 ERA).

To­day’s Pro­mo­tion:

Postgame fire­works fol­low­ing the game with coun­try mu­sic hits.

On The Air: KQSM-FM 92.1

On The Web: www.nwa naturals.com

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