Lopez pushes Naturals past RoughRiders
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.”
■ 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.