A three-run homer by Alfredo Escalera in the top of the eighth was the difference as Northwest Arkansas topped San Antonio 5-3 in front of 5,810 Saturday night at Wolff Stadium.
The Missions were first to strike in Saturday's series opener, connecting on three consecutive singles to begin the second inning against starter Ashton Goudeau. Following a walk to catcher Webster Rivas, Goudeau was removed due to an injury. Stepping to an unexpected bases-loaded, no-out jam, righty Pedro Fernandez did well to keep San Antonio away from a big inning. The Missions settled for just one more on a Luis Urias RBI-groundout to push their lead to 2-0.
After cruising through the first three innings, lefty Eric Lauer ran into trouble in the fourth. San Diego's No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com allowed the Naturals to tie the game at two with Cody Jones' two-run single to left.
It was the lone mistake on the night for Lauer, who allowed just five hits and two walks, while fanning four over five innings of work.
San Antonio struggled with Fernandez for awhile before taking advantage of his departure in the sixth. Franmil Reyes greeted right-hander Andrew Edwards with a double down the right-field line. After Reyes moved to third on a Ty France groundout, San Antonio retook the lead when Edwards uncorked a wild pitch.
The Missions looked poised to take the opener, but in the eighth, the Naturals came up with one last key rally. Former Northwest Arkansas hurler Aroni Nina entered the top of the eighth for San Antonio in place of T.J. Weir. Humberto Arteaga led off the frame with a single to right. After a wild pitch moved Arteaga to second, Nina got his first out with a Samir Duenez fly out to left. Zach Walters followed with a single, but Arteaga had to hold at third. Nina (0-1) appeared to be close to an escape when he got Anderson Miller to fly out to left. Unfortunately for Nina, he could not hold the lead as Escalera took his 2-0 pitch and lined it over the wall in left.
Edwards (2-0) and Jake Newberry (13th save) combined on the final two innings to lock up the Naturals victory.
San Antonio (9-7, 50-36) continues its three-game series with Northwest Arkansas (9-7, 48-38) Sunday on Heroes Appreciation Night presented by Bud Light. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 PM. Joey Lucchesi (1-0, 5.06) will get the ball for the Missions in his first Wolff Stadium start since arriving from High-A Lake Elsinore. Northwest Arkansas will counter with fellow southpaw Emilio Ogando (6-5, 3.42).
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.