Naturals score four in ninth, top Drillers
NATURALS 8, DRILLERS 7
SPRINGDALE — The Northwest Arkansas Naturals broke out of a weeklong offensive slump in a big way on Sunday and at just the right time.
The Naturals scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to rally to an 8-7 win against Tulsa and earn a split of the fourgame series before 2,890 at Arvest Ballpark.
Northwest Arkansas (1317, 52-48) had scored just 12 runs in its previous seven games, and had hit just .199 over its last 11 games before Sunday.
Sunday, though, the Naturals banged out 12 hits, including eight by the top four spots in the batting order.
Still, they needed four runs in the bottom of the ninth to overcome a threerun deficit.
“It’s a crazy game,” Naturals Manager Vance Wilson said. “We failed in some fundamental things early that I wasn’t happy about. Sometimes, defensively you get caught up in the grind of how hard this is, we’re battling and we’re tired, but fundamentals can’t take a break. We screwed some things up early. Obviously, the guys battled back.”
After two quick outs in
the ninth, Donnie Dewees was plunked by Corey Copping. Humberto Arteaga and Allan de San Miguel coaxed walks to load the bases before pinch-hitter Nick Dini slapped a single to right to score Dewees and Arteaga.
“They’ve got a good pitching staff,” Wilson said. “They run guys out there that throw hard. Especially to do that off Copping, you don’t do that very often. He’s a good pitcher. I’m proud of the guys.”
Nicky Lopez singled to short left to score pinch-runner Cody Jones and tie the game at 8-all. Pinch-hitter Anderson Miller bounced the first pitch from reliever and leftfielder Blake Gailen off the wall the deep corner of left field to easily score Dini from second for the game-winning run.
“We got caught short at the end with our pitching,” Tulsa Manager Ryan Garko said. “Corey’s probably one of our best guys here. He’s a prospect that we’re excited to pitch in the Major Leagues one day, but it just wasn’t his day. You walk people and the uncompetitive pitches. You just give a chance for something like that to happen.”
Tulsa (17-13, 50-50) had scored two runs in the top half of the ninth on Matt Beaty’s double to deep left for a 7-4 lead.
Tulsa led 5-3 after scoring three runs in the top of the fifth inning but Naturals reliever Tim Hill tossed four innings of scoreless ball, retiring 12 of 13 batters he faced.
“You don’t want to get caught up in using a lot of pitchers in this long stretch,” Wilson said. “For him to come in and do what he did with the amount of pitches he did and how he did it. He’s worked his tail off. He’s had some adversity. He had to go back to A-ball. To bounce back and go there and bide his time, and come back. I’m happy for him.”
Sunday’s game was the final one for Garko as the manager of the Drillers.
“It’s been great to be part of the Drillers and the Tulsa community, and the Dodger family,” Garko said. “I look forward to the next opportunity at the University and for my family. Today’s about these guys and saying goodbye. Whether we won or lost, I knew this was going to be last chance to be with them in this dugout. I got to coach
some great human beings the last couple of years with the Dodgers. It’s hard to say goodbye. I know it’s a part of sports, but I am excited about what’s about to come. This next opportunity came because of the opportunity the Dodgers gave me.”
Garko, who was an All-American catcher at Stanford, was named the head coach at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif. He’s looking forward to returning
to the college atmosphere.
“The educational part and really working on developing them into men as they graduate, and impacting their lives whatever they do,” Garko said. “We’re going to play a lot of baseball and get them better, and we’re going to try to win some games, but the mentorship part and the relationships you have with those guys. I get to recruit them and bring them in, and make the decisions. I have a vision and a culture I want to create.”
One thing Garko won’t
miss is the long bus rides around the Texas League.
“I have two babies at home that I’m going to get to have dinner with every night,” Garko said. “That’s probably worth more than anything.”
■ All four games of the four-game series between Tulsa and the Naturals were decided by one run; three straight 2-1 games and then Sunday’s 8-7 thriller.
■ The two teams combined to use nine pitchers on Sunday to throw a combined 334 pitches in the three hour, 22 minute game.
■ Sunday was Ryan Garko’s final game as Manager of the Tulsa Drillers before taking over as the head coach at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.
On Deck: The Naturals begin a three-game series in North Little Rock against the Travelers before returning home for a four-game set against streaking Springfield. The Naturals will go with Emilio Ogando (6-6, 3.51) in the series opener on Monday against Arkansas. Ogando is 2-1 against the Travelers this season, winning his first two starts with just one earned run in 12 combined innings. The Travelers handed Ogando a loss his last time out against them, though, with seven runs in just four innings of work six weeks ago. Arkansas had not announced a starter on Sunday.
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CARDINALS 3, TRAVELERS 1
Sandy Alcantara tossed seven scoreless innings, leading the Springfield Cardinals over the Arkansas Travelers in a 3-1 win on Sunday. Rowan Wick got Dario Pizzano to fly out with a runner on second to end the game for his third save of the season.