Dini, Naturals hold Cardinals off for win NATURALS 3, CARDINALS 2 TEXAS LEAGUE
SPRINGDALE — Nick Dini took his share of hits Saturday night, but the last one was well worth it.
Northwest Arkansas’ catcher took the throw from right fielder Anderson Miller, then denied Randy Arozarena the opportunity to score the tying run as the Naturals held off Springfield for a 3-2 victory before 5,991 at Arvest Ballpark.
“[Jacob] Wilson made an awesome throw, and I was able to put the tag on the guy,” Dini said. “We were fortunate enough that he made a good throw and I was able to get him at home. He was too far away to make a slide, and I had caught the ball and moved into the baseline. It was going to be tough for him.”
Northwest Arkansas (5353 overall, 14-22 second half) took a 3-1 lead into the ninth inning, but Springfield (5848, 23-13) put the tying runs on when John Nogowski singled and Arozarena reached on a two-base error. One out later, Jacob Wilson belted a single to drive in Nogowski, but Arozarena came around third and headed home.
Wilson, however, fired to the plate, and Dini took the throw with time to spare for the second out. Tim Hill then struck out Andrew Knizner to preserve the win, which was only the Naturals’ third win in their last 15 games.
“We’ve been struggling in the win category,” Northwest Arkansas manager Vance Wilson said. “More importantly, our pitching threw really well. Even when they rallied, we were able to throw some big pitches.
“I think catchers shouldn’t show their weakness, but I was giving Nick a little trouble. He hung in and did a great job. It’s part of being a catcher. You have to be the toughest guy on the field.”
Dini had already been hit by a pitch and fell to the dirt in the first inning, then hit the dirt again when he was struck by a foul ball from Oscar Mercado in the top of the eighth. Dini then went to the plate in the bottom half of the inning and was hit by another pitch, but this one came after the Naturals loaded the bases with walks and allowed Nicky Lopez score a crucial run.
“It was just one of those days,” Dini said. “That’s the territory that comes from being a catcher. You know you’re going to take your shots when you sign up to catch.
“Late in the game, with our team scuffling a little bit, it means fighting for wins. Anything you can do to get a run in and put a little cushion at the end, you do it. That run turned out to be big, so I’ll take it.”
■ Northwest Arkansas starter Emilio Ogando (7-7) pitched six-plus innings and allowed just one run on five hits. The left-hander retired 11 consecutive Springfield batters at one point before turning it over to Hill, who went three innings for his third save because he was the most rested pitcher and the Naturals are short two pitchers at the moment. ■ Donnie Dewees Jr. and Mauricio Ramos accounted for the Naturals’ first two runs. Dewees walked in the first and scored on Ramos’ high bouncer to third, then Dewees singled and scored on Ramos’ single in the third. ■ Despite suffering the loss, Springfield starter Chris Ellis (2-6) made his long outing of the season by throwing seven full innings. He pitched six innings on two occasions earlier this month, including his previous start at Tulsa.
On Deck: The two teams will conclude their four-game series today, with first pitch set for 2:05 p.m. Northwest Arkansas gives left-hander Jake Kalish (0-5, 3.68 ERA) the starting nod on the mound, while Springfield will counter with left-hander Austin Gomber (4-7, 4.48)
Today’s Promotion: All kids ages 12 and younger will eat for free and receive a voucher good for a hot dog, chips and drink once they enter the gate. It’s Family Sunday, which features activities for the family, and kids can run the bases after the game is completed.
On The Air: KQSM-FM 92.1
On The Web: www.nwa naturals.com.