Eric Hosmer slugged the Naturals to the brink of the Texas League championship on Friday night.
The former top Draft pick hit a two-run blast in the eighth inning to give Northwest Arkansas a 2-1 road win over the Midland RockHounds in Game 3 of the best-of-5 Finals.
The Naturals lead the series, 2-1, and will try to claim their first Texas League title on Saturday night.
Friday's game had a little bit of everything, from precision pitching to powerful prospects and peculiar plays.
Two left-handers dueled early, with Northwest Arkansas' John Lamb and Midland's Ryan Edell allowing just one hit apiece through five innings. Lamb ultimately gave up one run on two hits in 6 2/3 innings, while Edell gave up three hits and struck out seven over seven shutout frames. Neither figured in the decision.
The RockHounds got on the board first when designated hitter Grant Green, Oakland's first-round pick in the 2009 Draft, drove a 1-2 pitch over the left-field wall with two outs in the sixth. It was the 22-year-old's second longball in four games at the Double-A level.
Midland was four outs from taking a 2-1 series lead when Hosmer came up with one on in the eighth and reliever Mickey Storey on the mound.
"I'd faced him twice before [this year] and he started me with a fastball both times, so I was looking for it," Hosmer said.
The 20-year-old first baseman pounded Storey's first pitch into the Midland bullpen for his sixth playoff homer -- the second-highest total in a single Texas League postseason. In eight playoff games, he is 9-for-31 with six longballs, a triple and 11 RBIs. He has more homers than strikeouts (four).
Hosmer is not the only Natural swinging a big bat in the playoffs.
"Every game we seem to have someone else stepping up for us," he said. "Anthony (Seratelli) and Johnny (Giavotella) have been playing great, and then there's Clint (Robinson). It's been a pretty good situation for me, hitting in front of a Triple Crown winner."
Along with Robinson, who won the Triple Crown during the regular season, Seratelli is batting .389 with five homers, while Giavotella is hitting .370 with a .500 on-base percentage in the playoffs.
Northwest Arkansas turned to closer Patrick Keating for the final three outs, but the RockHounds refused to go quietly. After two quick outs, Alex Valdez singled sharply to right on a 1-2 pitch. After falling behind 0-2, Archie Gilbert followed with a ground ball hit right at Giavotella that struck something and caromed 10 feet over the second baseman's head.
"I was holding the runner on, so I was right at the bag when I saw it go to Johnny," Hosmer said. "I don't even know what it hit -- I've never seen that happen before."
With runners at the corners, Keating faced Josh Horton, who was batting .400 in the postseason, and struck him out to end the game.
"Horton has been tearing the cover off the ball, and for (Keating) to bounce back like that and strike him out was awesome," Hosmer said.
Storey (1-1) took the loss after allowing two runs on one hit and one walk in one inning. It was his third blown save in five playoff appearances.
Reliever Henry Barrera (1-0) tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the win before Keating picked up his third postseason save.
After losing the Championship Series to Midland in four games last season, Northwest Arkansas will have a chance to return the favor on Saturday night. The teams will face off at 8 p.m. ET, with the Naturals looking to claim their first title.