No starter, no prob­lem for Spring­field

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SCOREBOARD - MIKE CAP­SHAW

CAR­DI­NALS 6, NATURALS 2

SPRING­DALE —With ace pitcher Dakota Hud­son “skip­ping a start,” Spring­field man­ager Johnny Ro­driguez chal­lenged his team be­fore Thurs­day’s 6-2 win against Northwest Arkansas at Ar­vest Ball­park.

It re­sulted in Spring­field’s fifth con­sec­u­tive win against Northwest Arkansas ( 52-52, 13-21 sec­ond half), which had a chance to steal mo­men­tum late thwarted by a sec­ond three- run in­ning by the Car­di­nals (57-47, 2212) in the ninth.

“Our starter couldn’t go to­day, so all the sud­den we have a bullpen game with re­liev­ers pitch­ing go­ing,” Ro­driguez said. “And I want to tip my hat to those four re­liev­ers. Out­stand­ing job.

“I told these guys we need to be ag­gres­sive and get runs early on know­ing we had a bullpen game, but their lefty starter pitched well. “

Northwest Arkansas starter Foster Grif­fin faced the min­i­mum of 12 bat­ters through the first four in­nings with the help of a dou­ble play and a run­ner caught try­ing to steal sec­ond base. How­ever, the left­hander gave up four con­sec­u­tive hits to be­gin the fifth. A lead­off dou­ble to John No­gowski was fol­lowed by a two-run homer to left by Randy Arozarena to give the Car­di­nals a 2-1 lead.

That was fol­lowed by back-to-back line drive sin­gles by An­thony Gar­cia and Ja­cob Wil­son. Just when it ap­peared Grif­fin may es­cape with­out any fur­ther dam­age thanks to a dou­ble play, Ed­man sliced an RBI dou­ble over right fielder An­der­son Miller’s head to push the lead to 3-1.

Fol­low­ing Spring­field’s three- run fifth in­ning, the Naturals were un­able to get an­swer against re­liev­ers Tyler Bray, Corey Lit­trell and Lan­don Beck.

The best chance at a

rally came in the eighth when Northwest Arkansas loaded the bases with one out against Beck. An­der­son Miller hit a sacri­fice fly to score Nicky Lopez, who reached on a lead­off sin­gle. Beck then struck out Al­fredo Escalera swing­ing at a full-count changeup to es­cape.

An­other op­por­tu­nity was in the sixth when Nick Dini, who was 3- for- 3 and cel­e­brated his 24th birth­day on Thurs­day, lined a one- out dou­ble down the left field line, but Lit­trell got Miller to ground­out and Al­fredo Escalera to popout to end the threat.

The Car­di­nals’ sec­ond big in­ning be­gan when a hit by pitch, a walk and a popup that landed in short right field be­tween three Northwest Arkansas play­ers loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth in­ning. Ja­cob Wil­son punched a two-run sin­gle through the in­field, which was play­ing on the grass. A bunt sin­gle by Tommy Ed­man drove in an­other run to cre­ate the fi­nal mar­gin.

“Fun­da­men­tally, you just have to be able to catch foul balls,” said Northwest Arkansas man­ager Vance Wil­son. “It just kind of fell in that tri­an­gle and that’s fun­da­men­tals, so that falls on me. We’ll get it fixed.”

Hud­son, a 2016 first-rounder out of Mis­sis­sippi State, was ru­mored by Car­di­nals’ beat writ­ers on Twit­ter to likely have been pro­moted when he didn’t take the mound for his sched­uled start on Thurs­day. But Ro­driguez said that wasn’t the case.

“If that hap­pens in two or three days, then it hap­pens. It hap­pens to play­ers all the time,” Ro­driguez said. “But there was noth­ing to it other than him skip­ping a start.”

SHORT HOPS

■ The Naturals struck first when Don­nie De­wees Jr. hit a two- out, in­side- thep­ark home run in the third in­ning. De­wees his a high drive into the gap in right cen­ter field. Both cen­ter fielder Os­car Mer­cado and right fielder Mag­neuris Sierra made leap­ing at­tempts to catch it, but missed. The ball bounced hard off the wall and gave De­wees plenty of time to churn around the bases.

But De­wees stum­bled mid­way be­tween third and home, which caused him to be­gin his slide where the dirt meets the grassline. He barely made it to the plate and some­how avoided the tag by catcher Jesse Jen­ner to com­plete the im­prob­a­ble homer and spot Northwest Arkansas a 1-0 lead.

It was the first in­sid­e­the-park homer in Naturals his­tory, ac­cord­ing to Dustin Deth­lefs, the team’s di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing and pub­lic re­la­tions.

“That’s the great thing about Don­nie; the way he runs the bases,” Wil­son said. “He’s al­ways try­ing to get the next base. If any­body was go­ing to get one, it was go­ing to be him.”

On Deck: The Naturals con­tinue their seven- game home­s­tand and four- game se­ries against Spring­field at 7:05 p.m. Northwest Arkansas sends right-han­der Josh Stau­mont to the mound while the Car­di­nals counter with right-han­der Sandy Ala­can­tara (6-5, 4.85). Ala­can­tara was the win­ning pitcher against Stau­mont dur­ing an 8- 3 win against NWA on July 18 at Spring­field.

To­day’s Pro­mo­tion: Post-game fire­works.

On The Air: KQSM-FM 92.1

On The Web: www.nwa naturals.com

DRILLERS 12, TRAV­EL­ERS 2

Erick Me­jia hit a pair of homers, lead­ing the Tulsa Drillers to a 12-2 win over the Arkansas Trav­el­ers on Thurs­day.

Tim Lo­cas­tro and Jose Miguel Fer­nan­dez also home­red for the Drillers.

Me­jia hit a three-run shot in the third in­ning off Nick Nei­dert and then hit a solo homer in the sev­enth off Kyle Hunter.

Ed­die Gam­boa (2-1) got the win with five in­nings of score­less, two- hit re­lief while Arkansas starter Nei­dert ( 0-2) took the loss in the Texas League game.

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