SPRINGDALE, Ark - Locked in a scoreless game, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (1-0) used a three-run seventh to propel them to a win over the Tulsa Drillers (0-1) in Game 1 of the Texas League North Divisional Series. The 3-1 victory on Wednesday night at Arvest Ballpark gives the Naturals an important 1-0 lead in this Best-of-5 series heading into Game 2 on Thursday night.
The Naturals offense had opportunities all evening but finally broke through in the home half of the seventh after Tulsa replaced their starter with reliever RHP Layne Somsen (L, 0-1). Alfredo Escalera began the charge with a sharp single back up the middle before advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by Nicky Lopez . Nick Dini then opened the scoring with a run-scoring single to right field to give Northwest Arkansas a 1-0 lead. The Naturals would then take advantage of a miscue by the Drillers' right-fielder as a fly ball by Humberto Arteaga was misplayed, which put runners at second and third with one-out. Donnie Dewees, Jr. followed with a sacrifice fly to plate Dini before Jack Lopez completed the three-run frame with a RBI double.
Tulsa would respond with their lone run of the game in the eighth. Drew Jackson doubled to begin the inning, advanced to third on a groundout to shortstop, and then came into score on a RBI groundout by Garrett Kennedy to cut the deficit to 3-1. However, that would be all the offense the Drillers would muster as the Naturals pitching was too much for Tulsa in Game 1.
Through six complete innings the game was a pitcher's duel. LHP Foster Griffin of Northwest Arkansas was dealing while RHP Mitchell White of Tulsa kept the Naturals off the scoreboard; however, neither starter would factor into the decision. Griffin was 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA against Tulsa during the regular season and continued that dominance as he allowed only two hits and struck out eight in 6.1 scoreless innings of work. White was equally effective as he held the Naturals to four hits in 6.0 innings.
Following Griffin's departure in the sixth inning, Naturals' Manager Vance Wilson turned to a couple of more lefties out of his bullpen and the duo delivered. LHP Tim Hill (1-0) earned the victory after allowing just a run in 1.2 innings of relief while LHP Richard Lovelady (S, 1) collected a save with a scoreless ninth to secure the Naturals victory and a 1-0 series advantage.
Northwest Arkansas will continue their Best-of-5 Texas League North Divisional Series with Game 2 tomorrow night - Thursday, September 7 - against the Tulsa Drillers (Double-A Los Angeles Dodgers) with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Thursday night's game features a Rally Towel Giveaway by Coca-Cola on Buck Night and Thirsty Thursday featuring Half Price Alcoholic Beverages in the Craft Beer Bar from 5:45 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. The Naturals will send RHP Josh Staumont (3-4, 4.44 ERA) to the mound in the all-important Game 2 and he'll be opposed by RHP Scott Barlow (6-3, 2.10 ERA) of the Drillers. Catch all of the live play-by-play action with the Voice of the Naturals Benjamin Kelly on The Ticket 2 - AM 1590, at 6:45 p.m. for the Indigo Sky Casino Pregame Show leading up to first pitch of Game 2 of the Texas League North Divisional Series from 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.