With his team on the brink of elimination and his opponent on the verge of a historic third straight title, Josh Staumont pitched lights-out baseball.
Kansas City's No. 11 prospect allowed three hits and a walk while striking out eight over 6 1/3 innings Thursday as visiting Northwest Arkansas zipped Midland, 4-0, in Game 3 of the best-of-5 Texas League Championship Series.
For the first time in the series, the Naturals opened the scoring. Corey Toups led the game off with a double to left field and came around to score on Mauricio Ramos' sacrifice fly to left.
Pitching with an early lead, Staumont retired nine out of his first 11 batters and didn't let a runner get beyond first base.
"It wasn't just me that had a big game," the 22-year-old right-hander said. "We had no choice but to be good. The defense behind me was working all night and they handled all the ground balls well."
Staumont got stronger as the game went on. The 2015 second-round pick struck out the side in the fifth and worked a 1-2-3 sixth.
"As a pitcher, you start to figure out what's working as the game goes on," the California native said. "You know what the hitters are looking for and how to adjust to their gameplan after seeing them for a couple of games."
Alfredo Escalera extended the Naturals' lead in the seventh with a two-run double to left. The 21-year-old center fielder continued his big night with an RBI triple to right in the ninth. Escalera went 4-for-5 on the night.
"He's such a positive guy and such a good hitter that this breakout game was coming," Staumont said. "He's had a great series in a lot of ways, so it was good to see him rewarded for his hard work."
Left-hander Daniel Stumpf took over for Staumont and struck out two in 1 1/3 innings, while righty Aroni Nina walked two with one strikeout over a frame. southpaw Eric Stout fanned Beau Taylor to earn his first save.
The series stays in Midland for Game 4, which takes place at 8 p.m. ET on Friday.
"We need to get some runs on the board early again," Staumont said. "It's easier said than done, but this is a team built for the playoffs. We just need to go out there tomorrow and do what we did today."