Naturals handcuffed in sixth straight loss
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.”
■ 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).
Postgame fireworks following the game with country music hits.
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