Lopez pushes Nat­u­rals past RoughRid­ers

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BASEBALL - HENRY AP­PLE

TEXAS LEAGUE NAT­U­RALS 4, ROUGHRID­ERS 2

SPRING­DALE — Frisco ap­par­ently didn’t learn its les­son about pitch­ing out­side to Nick Lopez.

North­west Arkansas’ lead­off hit­ter sim­ply went the other way with his tie-break­ing, two-out sin­gle in the sev­enth in­ning Sat­ur­day night, giv­ing the Nat­u­rals a 4-2 vic­tory over the RoughRid­ers at Ar­vest Ball­park.

“I went into that at- bat think­ing I was go­ing to get some­thing good to hit,” Lopez said. “Once I saw [Frisco pitcher Richel­son Pena] get ahead in the count, I thought I may have to change my plan and get ag­gres­sive.

“He threw me a pretty good pitch at 0-1, and I fouled that off. I went into a twostrike ap­proach and tried to bat­tle — choke up a lit­tle bit and put the ball in play, and I was able to come through.”

North­west Arkansas (59-60 over­all, 20-29 sec­ond half) had three other oc­ca­sions where it had run­ners at first and sec­ond with less than two outs, only to have those scor­ing threats nul­li­fied by dou­ble plays. An­der­son Miller, how­ever, sin­gled with one out in the sev­enth, then moved to sec­ond when Nick Dini’s grounder was mis­han­dled by Frisco short­stop Michael De Leon.

Cody Jones picked up the sec­ond out, but his grounder to sec­ond al­lowed the run­ners to move up a base. That set up Lopez, who had hit a lead­off home run to right field in the first, for his loop­ing

shot out of the reach of sec­ond base­man Luis Marte and scor­ing both run­ners.

“We had run­ners at sec­ond and third, and Jack had a great two-strike ap­proach,” Nat­u­rals man­ager Vance Wil­son said. “He didn’t hit the ball hard, but he hit it where they weren’t, which is ob­vi­ously a big thing in base­ball.

“They threw him two break­ing balls in a row, and I think they were try­ing to jam him. He just left it over the plate. It was a great job by Jack and a great job of those two guys get­ting on base.”

Frisco (51-68, 20-29) did threaten in the eighth when Scott Heine­man and Isiah Kiner-Falefa had back-to-back in­field sin­gles that chased North­west Arkansas starter Foster Griffin (9-4). Richard Love­lady, how­ever, came in and en­duced a fly ball to end the threat, then re­tired the RoughRid­ers in or­der for his first save.

Griffin, who was com­ing off his short­est out­ing of the sea­son, bounced back and pitched 72/ in­nings — his long­est 3 out­ing with the Nat­u­rals. The left-han­der al­lowed eight hits and struck out four in an 87-pitch out­ing.

“Griffin was sharp, Wil­son said. “I thought his fast ball was down, and that was the best his break­ing ball has been. It was that way con­sis­tently through the whole game.

“It was off his fast­ball, and it was hard to tell when he threw it. That’s a good thing be­cause it’s mov­ing off his fast­ball, and (Nick) Dini did a great job catch­ing.”

SHORT HOPS

■ The win gives North­west Arkansas the se­ries against Frisco and a 4-1 record on the cur­rent home­s­tand with one game re­main­ing. It also evens the sea­son se­ries with the ’Rid­ers at 4-4, and the two teams still have a three-game se­ries next week­end in Frisco.

■ Griffin’s pre­vi­ous long­est out­ing as a Nat­u­ral came on June 9, when he pitched seven in­nings and al­lowed one run on three hits in a win against Spring­field. He had an eight-in­ning per­for­mance on May 9 when he pitched at Class-A Ad­vanced Wilm­ing­ton.

■ Pitcher Andres Machado left North­west Arkansas for Triple-A Omaha be­fore Sat­ur­day’s game, while Paulo Or­lando had his re­hab as­sign­ment moved to Omaha.

On Deck: The two teams play for the fi­nal time this sea­son at Ar­vest Ball­park, and to­day’s game con­cludes North­west Arkansas’ six- game home­s­tand be­fore head­ing to Texas. Left-han­der Emilio Ogando (7-8, 3.42 ERA), who made a spot start Tues­day with Omaha, draws the start­ing pitcher role for the Nat­u­rals, while Frisco send left-han­der Ariel Ju­rado (8-10, 5.00) to the mound.

To­day’s Pro­mo­tion: It’s Kids Eat Free Fam­ily Sun­day, and all fans ages 12 and younger will re­ceive a voucher at the gate good for a hot dog, chips and drink. Kids will also have the op­por­tu­nity to run around the bases af­ter the game. It’s also Bark in the Ball­park, and dogs will be ad­mit­ted free as long as their own­ers have paid tick­ets. There will be con­tests dur­ing the sec­ond in­ning for big­gest, small­est and best dressed dog.

On The Air: KQSM-FM 92.1

On The Web: www.nwa nat­u­rals.com.

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