Naturals take Texas League Finals opener

Take advantage of five errors in 11-5 romp over RockHounds

Jeff Bianchi is hitting .368 with two homers and four RBIs in the playoffs. (Joy R. Absalon/

By Robert Emrich / Special to | September 15, 2009 8:34 PM ET

Jeff Bianchi collected three hits, an RBI and a run scored Tuesday as the Northwest Arkansas Naturals opened the Texas League Championship Series with an 11-5 romp over the sloppy Midland RockHounds.

Bianchi, a 2005 second-round Draft pick, has hit safely in each of Northwest Arkansas' four playoff games. Kurt Mertins drove in two runs, giving him a league-leading seven postseason RBIs.

Coming off a complete-game two-hit shutout in Game 1 of the semifinals, Anthony Lerew allowed one run and scattered eight hits while striking out six over six innings.

"[He] wasn't near as sharp as was he was in Springfield in his last outing," Naturals manager Brian Poldberg said. "He was in trouble. He bent, but he didn't break."

Northwest Arkansas tied a season high with 18 hits and also took advantage of five errors by the RockHounds.

"They helped us early, they made three or four errors, then our guys relaxed and started hitting," Poldberg noted. "If you're swinging the bat well, you want to keep it going."

Vance Wilson chipped in two doubles and an RBI for the Naturals. The veteran of 408 Major League games is hitting .462 in the playoffs, but his contributions go beyond the field.

"He's an experienced player and he's got a good chance to be back in the bigs next year," Poldberg said. "Having that guy who knows what he's doing is a big help, with the knowledge that he hands off to the other players and the professionalism that he bring to a Double-A clubhouse."

Josh Donaldson put Midland on the board in the third with his third postseason homer. Shane Peterson collected three hits and drove in two runs.

Game 2 of the best-of-5 series is Wednesday in Midland.

Robert Emrich is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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