SPRINGDALE, Ark - First baseman Samir Duenez homered and drove in four as the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (10-9, 49-40) won the series opener over the Tulsa Drillers (12-7, 45-44) by a 7-4 final at Arvest Ballpark. The victory on Wednesday night moves the Naturals to within 2.0 games of the Drillers, who sit on top of the second half Texas League North Division standings.
With the Naturals clinging to a 5-4 lead in the eighth, Duenez stepped to the plate with two outs and Jack Lopez on first and launched a towering home run over the wall in right for a commanding 7-4 advantage. The big fly traveled an estimated 412 feet with the exit velocity of 104 mph as the slugger collected his team-leading 12th home run and 55th RBI of the season.
Northwest Arkansas took a lead in the first as Duenez started his big night with a RBI groundout to plate Lopez, whom led off the game with a double. The Drillers though would have an immediate answer by putting up four runs against Naturals ace LHP Foster Griffin in the second as both Quincy Latimore and Tim Locastro hit two-run home runs to give them an early 4-1 lead.
The Naturals would reclaim the lead with a couple of runs in the third and fourth. In the third, Anderson Miller plated Nicky Lopez with a RBI fielder's choice while Humberto Arteaga drove in Duenez with a run-scoring single. Then in the fourth, Duenez had another RBI fielder's choice before a key miscue by Tulsa's second baseman Erick Mejia allowed the go-ahead run to score.
The 5-4 lead was enough for Griffin (W, 7-1) as the Naturals' lefty worked around a four-run second to earn another win. He tossed 5.0 innings and allowed four runs on eight hits while striking out six and only issuing one walk. It was Griffin's first appearance at Arvest Ballpark since logging a perfect 0.2 innings pitched in the Major League Futures Game in Miami on July 9.
In relief out of the Northwest Arkansas bullpen, LHP Richard Lovelady (H, 1) and RHP Jake Newberry (S, 14) combined for 4.0 innings of scoreless baseball to secure the win as Newberry tacked on another save to his Texas League leading total.
On offense, Duenez went 2-for-5 with a home run and four RBI while Jack Lopez, Nicky Lopez, and Arteaga each had two hits.
Northwest Arkansas will continue their 4-game homestand with Game 2 of this 4-game set against the Tulsa Drillers (Double-A Los Angeles Dodgers) tomorrow night - Thursday, July 13 - with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Arvest Ballpark on a Buck Night & Thirsty Thursday. The Naturals will send RHP Josh Staumont , the Kansas City Royals top prospect according to Baseball America entering the 2017 season, to the mound in his first appearance for Northwest Arkansas and he'll square off against RHP Andrew Sopko (1-4, 3.51 ERA) of the Drillers. Catch the live play-by-play action with the Voice of the Naturals Benjamin Kelly on KQSM - 92.1 The Ticket, your home for Naturals baseball, at 6:45 p.m. for the Indigo Sky Casino Pregame Show.
Follow the Northwest Arkansas Naturals on Facebook and Twitter @NWANaturals all throughout the year by using the hashtag #NaturalPastime and #CrowntoCrown for all of our up-to-date information on Season 10 of Naturals baseball.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The Naturals play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Ark. For more information, including statistics, ticket options, and more, please visit NWANaturals.com, and follow us on Twitter @NWANaturals and Facebook.com/Naturals.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.