Springdale, AR - The Springfield Cardinals struck for three two-out runs in the top of the ninth, but the Northwest Arkansas Naturals escaped with a 6-5 win before 3,954 fans at Arvest Ballpark on Thursday night.
The Naturals (14-13, 39-58) cracked the scoreless tie with three tallies in the bottom of the third inning against RHP Richard Castillo (L, 6-6). With two on and no outs, RF Whit Merrifield plated C Manny Pina with an RBI double to start the scoring. Later in the frame and with the bases loaded and two down, 1B Matt Fields lined a two-run single to left-center field, capping the three-run frame.
Another RBI double by Merrifield stretched the lead in the fourth, before the Naturals added a fifth run in the sixth inning. With runners at the corners and one away, SS Orlando Calixte skied an RBI sacrifice fly to center field, bringing home 2B Angel Franco from third base to make it 5-0.
The Cardinals (14-13, 47-48) answered with two runs in the top of the seventh against RHP Sugar Ray Marimon (W, 6-10). 1B Chris Swauger started the frame with a triple into the right field corner, scoring on an errant relay throw when Franco tried to throw out Swauger at third. One out later, 2B Luis Mateo swung himself to scoring position with a double. After a fly out advanced Mateo to third, SS Jake Lemmerman ripped an RBI double to left field, plating Mateo to chip the deficit down to 5-2.
After an RBI sacrifice fly by 1B Mitch Canham in the bottom of the seventh stretched the Naturals lead to 6-2, the Cardinals rallied in the top of the ninth against LHP Scott Alexander and LHP Zach Jackson (S, 11). After Mateo started the ninth with a base hit, Alexander struck out the next two batters. However, 3B Tyler Rahmatulla extended the inning with a walk, putting runners at first and second base. LF Mike O'Neill followed with an infield single to the right-side of the infield, which led to a throwing error on Franco past first base, enabling Mateo to score on the miscue. With runners at the corners, CF James Ramsey bounced an RBI infield single inside the first base line, bringing in Rahmatulla from third base. With Jackson on the mound, pinch hitter Xavier Scruggs came through with an RBI single to center field, scoring O'Neill and moving Ramsey to third base with the Cardinals only down by one. After Scruggs stole second base, Jackson won a battle of an at-bat against Swauger, dealing a game-ending strikeout to close the 6-5 win for Northwest Arkansas.
Click here for the complete box score from Thursday's game.
The Cardinals continue the road series on Friday in Northwest Arkansas with a 7 p.m. First Pitch. Catch all the action live on Jock 98.7FM and SpringfieldCardinals.com, and tune in 15 minutes early for the Coyote's Sports Cafe Pregame Show.
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