Gomber, Cardinals down Naturals 6-3
SPRINGDALE — Springfield starter Austin Gomber watched as Oscar Mercado made a diving catch of a line drive that was probably headed for extra bases and then tipped his cap to the center fielder.
It was one of the few opportunities that Northwest Arkansas had against Gomber, who allowed just a lone run through seven stout innings in Springfield’s 6-3 win on Sunday before 3,329 at Arvest Ballpark.
Springfield (24-13, 59-48) remained in first place in the Texas League North division with the win and took the four-game series against the Naturals (14-23, 53-54).
Gomber was roughed up in four previous outings against Northwest Arkansas this season, allowing 14 earned runs in 21 innings. He was 0-3 against the Naturals with a 6.00 earned run average, but Sunday was much different.
“Probably just more of what I was doing,” Gomber said. “I think I threw well the first time I faced them in April, but I’ve faced these guys a lot the last month of last year and a lot of these guys were in the fall league. These guys have seen me quite a bit, so it’s always a grind against these guys. Today was one of those days that went my way.”
Gomber gave up a solo homer to Alfredo Escalera, who staked the Naturals to a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning.
That was pretty much it against Gomber, who pitched around an error with an inning-ending double-play grounder in the first. He yielded a two-out single to Cody Jones in the fifth inning and a one-out single Anderson Miller in the seventh, his last inning to work.
“He changed his plan, he went all fastballs,” Northwest Arkansas Manager Vance Wilson said. “We didn’t adjust, which is a little embarrassing when you run an offense. If I was to guess, I’d say he went 80 percent fastballs 89 to 91 (miles per hour), and we didn’t adjust.”
Gomber said his fastball felt live and that’s what he relied on.
“I wasn’t really planning on it, that’s just where the game took me,” Gomber said. “I didn’t think I had my best breaking ball today. I usually throw a good amount of offspeed pitches, and those guys know that. I could tell they were sitting on it a little bit so I just went to the fastball. I thought I had a good fastball and then the game just took me there.”
Gomber got a big lift in the fifth inning. In the top of the inning, Jesse Jenner singled home a run and Tommy Edman scored Jenner with a double for a 2-1 lead for Springfield. In the bottom of the inning with one out, Mercado made his diving catch of a liner off the bat of Allan de San Miguel of a ball certainly headed for extra bases.
“Anytime those guys are out there laying out whether they catch it or not but to see guys laying out you always appreciate the effort,” Gomber said. “The fact he was able to catch that was pretty nice.”
Springfield added two runs in the eighth inning on Darren Seferina’s solo homer and Jacob Wilson’s sacrifice fly, which scored John Nogowski, for a 4-1 lead.
The Naturals answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning on run-scoring singles by Donnie Dewees and Samir Duenez.
Springfield added two more in the ninth inning to bump its lead to 6-3 on Mercado’s mammoth two-run bomb high and far over the bullpen in dead left.
The Naturals threatened in the bottom of the ninth and had the tying run at the plate after walks by de San Miguel and Jones, but Rowan Wick finally earned the save in a 25-pitch inning.
The top four batters in Springfield’s lineup of Edman, Mercado, Seferina and Nogowski combined for eight hits in 20 at-bats with three runs scored and four runs batted in, but the lineup as a whole had 12 hits and only one spot was hitless.
■ Springfield starter Austin Gomber had his best outing of July and the best this season against Northwest Akansas in five starts versus the Naturals
■ The top four hitters in Springfield’s batting order combined for eight hits in 20 at-bats with three runs scored and four runs batted in
■ Molly the Fire Safety dog, sponsored by the Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation, threw out the ceremonial first pitch or more accurately carried the ball from the pitcher’s mound across home plate to the catcher
On Deck: Right-hander Cory Ray (6-8, 4.63) will start for Northwest Arkansas tonight while Justin DeFratus (4-5, 4.70) earns the start for Arkansas in the opener of a three-game series. Ray, a Texas A&M product, has faced Arkansas five times already this season and is 1-3 with 13 earned runs in 22 innings of work. Ray has 21 starts this season, which is the second-most in the Texas League. DeFratus is making his fourth start of the season against the Naturals with two wins and a no decision against Northwest Arkansas. DeFratus has allowed just five runs in 18.2 innings against the Naturals with two walks and six strikeouts.
Tonight’s Promotion: Ozarks Electric Cooperative Corp. will sponsor Monday Night Lights. Ozarks Electric customers who bring their electric bill or a Co-op Connections Card to the Arvest Ballpark Box Office will receive $5 premium tickets. Tyson Foods will sponsor Dollar Hot Dogs while Indigo Sky Casino will sponsor bingo for prizes. Monday is also Fellowship Night at Arvest Ballpark. Bush Brother’s Food Drive will also take place at Arvest Ballpark on Monday, benefitting the NWA Food Bank. Fan will received two free Dugout Premium tickets to Monday’s game in exchange for donating a food item. The Naturals Team Store is featuring a special on Monday where those who spend at least $50 will get a free snapback cap.
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On The Web: www.nwa naturals.com
John Nogowski (left), Springfield first baseman, reacts after being called out at second on a tag by Carlos Diaz, Northwest Arkansas second baseman, in the sixth inning Sunday during the game at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale.