SPRINGDALE, Ark - Just past the 11 o'clock hour, Samir Duenez stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and only one out in the 12th inning of a 1-1 game. The slugging first baseman lifted 2-2 pitch to right field deep enough to score the speedy Cody Jones to walk the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (11-10, 50-41) off as winners over the Tulsa Drillers (13-8, 46-45) by a 2-1 final.
Facing LHP Chris Cotton in the bottom of the 12th, the Naturals got to work right away by putting Jones on first base with only one out. Nicky Lopez put runners at the corners with a single and then the Drillers decided to intentionally walk Jack Lopez to load the bases, which set the stage for the heroics from Duenez as he plated the winning run and the celebration ensued.
For the third consecutive game the Naturals scored a run in the initial frame. Shortstop Nicky Lopez led off the game with a triple into the gap in right-center and was brought home by Duenez with a RBI groundout for the early 1-0 advantage.
Northwest Arkansas maintained their 1-0 lead until the eighth inning when Tulsa scored the game-tying run. Quincy Latimore led off with a single and Matt Beaty followed with a single of his own, which moved Latimore to second before he eventually took third base on the play because of a fielding error by Anderson Miller . The Naturals would turn to hard-throwing reliever LHP Richard Lovelady but he was greeted by a RBI double to the right field wall by Darien Tubbs , which tied the game at 1-1.
The tightly contested ballgame was a pitcher's duel throughout. LHP Emilio Ogando of the Naturals twirled 5.0 scoreless frames while scattering seven hits and striking out six. His counterpart, RHP Josh Sborz , was almost as effective as he tossed 5.0 innings of one-run baseball and limited Northwest Arkansas to only four hits. The bullpens followed suit as each team only gave up a run relief. RHP Jake Newberry (W, 4-2) earned the win with a scoreless 12th while Cotton (L, 0-1) took the loss for Tulsa.
Northwest Arkansas will conclude their 4-game homestand with the series finale against the Tulsa Drillers (Double-A Los Angeles Dodgers) tomorrow night - Saturday, July 15 - with first pitch scheduled for 6:05 p.m. at Arvest Ballpark. Saturday night's game features an Eric Hosmer Giveaway by Cox Communications and a Bullpen Craft Beer Bar Happy Hour from 4:35 p.m. until 5:35 p.m. The Naturals will send RHP Glenn Sparkman to the mound in his Naturals return after spending time with the Toronto Blue Jays and he'll be opposed by the highly-touted prospect RHP Walker Buehler (2-2, 2.48 ERA) of the Drillers. 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 5:45 p.m. for the Indigo Sky Casino Pregame Show leading up to first pitch against the Double-A Dodgers.
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.