TULSA, Okla. - The Naturals just keep winning. Northwest Arkansas completed a 10-inning suspended game with a 3-2 victory over Tulsa to begin the evening and ended the firework-filled night at ONEOK Field with a 4-0 shutout over the Drillers on Friday night. The victory eliminated the Drillers for First Half postseason contention and pulled the Naturals within one more win of securing the First Half North Division title.
The suspended game recommenced at 5:02 central time at ONEOK Field and picked up in the top of the eighth inning with the Naturals and the Drillers tied at 2-2. Northwest Arkansas (36-31) claimed the victory after in the top of the 10th inning. Donnie Dewees led off the frame with a double and moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Nick Dini . Then, Humberto Arteaga shot a sharp-single underneath the drawn-in infield and plated Dewees from third to take a 3-2 lead.
Left-hander, Sam Selman (3-2, 3.06) worked all three innings in the suspended game and struck out a season-high five hitters over 3.0 clean innings of work.
Right-hander, Zach Lovvorn (4-4, 4.95) stole the show in the fourth game of the series with a 6.2 innings of shutout baseball. The right-hander dazzled keeping Tulsa hitter off-balance all night and recorded his longest outing of the season since he went 7.0 innings on May 5. Lovvorn struck out three over his start with one walk.
The Naturals provided Lovvorn an early lead against Tulsa (32-35) ace, Scott Barlow (4-3, 2.17). Naturals' Corey Toups pounded the seventh pitch of the ballgame over the left-field home run porch for his third home run of the season and gifted the Naturals a 1-0 lead.
Northwest Arkansas added to their lead in the fifth inning off Barlow when Toups reached on one-out error by shortstop Erick Mejia . Toups swiped second base and scored on the next pitch on Samir Duenez double to right-centerfield to make it a 2-0 game. In the following frame, Arteaga drew a one-out walk and Dewees chauffeured him home on a triple to centerfield. Dewees scampered home to score on the play as the relay thrown glanced off him during his slide to third and extended the Naturals lead to 4-0.
Reliever, Tim Hill , worked the final 2.1 innings of shutout baseball to polish off the blanking of Tulsa and fanned two in the appearance.
Northwest Arkansas handed Barlow the starter's first losing decision since April 18.
The victory leaves just the Naturals and the winner of Springfield and Arkansas remaining the hunt of the First Half of the North Division. The losing team of the Springfield/Arkansas contest will be eliminated from first half postseason contention with the winner's magic number down to one.
This sets up a finale on Saturday, June 17 at ONEOK Field in Tulsa, Okla. Left-hander, Emilio Ogando (3-4, 4.43) will toe the slab for the Naturals against right-hander, Andrew Sopko (1-4, 4.50) for the Drillers. A victory over Sopko and Co. would clinch the First Half North Division title outright for the third time in franchise history.
Northwest Arkansas is 2-0 against Sopko this season with the Tulsa right-hander's ERA against the Naturals at 5.63.
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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.