SPRINGDALE, AR - Bolstered by a pair of four-run frames, Northwest Arkansas withstood two late Corpus Christi rallies in a 9-8 Naturals victory on Wednesday evening at Arvest Ballpark.
Trailing by a run in the ninth, Leo Heras seared a triple over the head of centerfielder Ethan Chapman. With the infield drawn in, M.P. Cokinos hit a slow chopper to second for the second out. Mark Peterson then went 3-2 on Conrad Gregor before Gregor drew his third walk of the game. Brandon Meredith was next and Peterson buried a 1-2 pitch in the dirt that skipped to the right of catcher Micah Gibbs. Heras took off from third and made a head-first dive to the plate. The tag by Peterson was ruled in time by Nestor Ceja, ending the game.
The Hooks struck first against J.C. Sulbaran. In the fourth, Colin Moran sent a one-out single to right field. Moran scored from first when Jonathan Meyer drove a double down the left-field line.
The 1-0 lead was short-lived as Northwest Arkansas sent seven men to the plate against Mike Hauschild in the home half. A pair of singles by Jorge Bonifacio and Mitch Maier began the frame. Following a sac bunt and a hit batsmen, Juan Graterol snuck a ground ball past Gregor at first and down the right-field line, plating two. Mark Threlkeld dumped a flare into shallow center for a two-run single and a 4-1 Naturals advantage.
Corpus Christi got a run back against Noel Arguelles in the fifth when Moran blistered a two-out RBI double that one-hopped the fence in center.
The Hooks roared back in the sixth. Heras cracked a lead-off two-bagger into the right-field corner. Gregor sent him home with a single through the right side. Brandon Meredith coaxed a free pass and Delino DeShields, Jr., notched the second double of the frame, a liner to left that plated Gregor. Tony Kemp pushed Corpus Christi ahead 5-4 with a sac fly to center.
Kyle Smith, who authored a 1-2-3 fifth, could not hold the lead in the sixth. After notching the first out quickly, Smith jumped ahead of Hunter Dozier 0-2 before losing him with a walk. Consecutive four-pitch free passes loaded the bases for ninth-place hitter Justin Trapp, who was struck by an 0-2 pitch to tie the game. Chapman cleared the bases with a double to left-center, handing the Naturals an 8-5 edge.
Maier opened the seventh with a home run to right off Kyle Weiland.
The first three men reached off Sam Selman in the Corpus Christi eighth. Run-scoring groundouts by DeShields and Kemp cut the Naturals advantage to two. Teoscar Hernandez capped the rally by sending a base hit up the middle for his first Double-A RBI.
The Hooks shoot for the series victory Thursday night. Chris Devenski earns the start and Josh Hader, making his Double-A debut, is slated to follow out of the bullpen. Christian Binford gets the call for Northwest Arkansas.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.