SPRINGDALE, Ark - Jack Lopez hit a three-run home run and Nick Dini came through with a game-winning two-run double as the combo delivered the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (18-28/57-59) a fourth straight home win on Wednesday night. With the 6-4 win over the Midland RockHounds (20-26/55-61), the Naturals have clinched their second consecutive home series win.
After spotting the RockHounds the first four runs of the game, the Naturals began to fight back in the bottom of the fifth. It happened in a flash as the first three batters strung together hits against LHP A.J. Puk , the highly touted pitching prospect for the Oakland Athletics, as Dini singled and moved to third on a Cody Jones double to set the stage for Lopez. Northwest Arkansas' leadoff hitter followed by jumping on the first fastball he saw for a three-run homer and a brand new ballgame at 4-3.
The game remained 4-3 into the home half of the eighth. With one out in the frame, Hounds' reliever LHP Brandon Mann (L, 3-5) hit Mauricio Ramos and Donnie Dewees, Jr. in consecutive plate appearances. Midland then turned to the bullpen and RHP Tyler Sturdevant to try and work out of the jam but the plan did not come to fruition. They intentionally walked Humberto Arteaga after a wild pitch to load the bases. The Naturals would then tie the game on a RBI fielder's choice by Anderson Miller before Dini delivered the clutch, two-out game-winning double to give the Naturals a 6-4 advantage and ultimately the win.
Northwest Arkansas received 3.0 stellar innings out of their bullpen on Wednesday as RHP Yunior Marte (W, 1-1) earned his first Double-A win with 2.0 terrific frames before giving way to closer RHP Mark Peterson (S, 2) in the ninth to secure the win.
LHP Jake Kalish made his ninth start of the year and pitched well enough to keep the Naturals in the game throughout. He limited the RockHounds to only four runs on 11 hits, with the majority being of the infield variety, to go along with three strikeouts through 6.0 innings before giving way to the bullpen. Puk, meanwhile, lived up to his prospect billing early on but the offense of Northwest Arkansas was able to get to him for three runs on seven hits through 5.0 complete innings.
Midland out-hit the Naturals by a 13-to-9 tally as the visitors got a hit from nine different players including a three RBI night from Viosergy Rosa , whom leads the Texas League in that offensive category with 94. However, at the end of the day the combination of Lopez and Dini were too much for Midland as the duo combined to go 5-for-8 with five RBIs in the contest.
Northwest Arkansas will continue their current 6-game homestand by going for the series sweep against the Midland RockHounds (Double-A Oakland Athletics) tomorrow night - Thursday, August 10 - with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on a Buck Night & Thirsty Thursday presented by Foghorn's. In the series finale, the Naturals send RHP Corey Ray (6-9, 5.11 ERA) to the bump and he'll be opposed by RHP Grant Holmes (8-11, 4.90 ERA) of the RockHounds. Catch all of 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 leading up to first pitch against the Double-A Oakland Athletics at Arvest Ballpark.
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.