SPRINGDALE, Ark - Naturals' infielder Jecksson Flores claimed the Texas League Batting Title, accomplishing a feat only done once prior in franchise history, but Northwest Arkansas (35-35, 70-70) would fall to the Arkansas Travelers (36-33, 71-68) by a 8-3 score in the finale of the 2018 season. With the loss, Northwest Arkansas finishes with an overall record of 70-70 this year.
The 24-year-old Flores finished the season with a .314 batting average to become just the second Natural to win the batting title. The infielder out of Cuidad Bolivar, Venezuela took over the top spot from former teammate Nicky Lopez on August 16 and never looked back. He led the category the rest of the way and ultimately topped Midland's Eli White by eight points. Clint Robinson , the previous winner for Northwest Arkansas, won the batting title during his Triple Crown winning season of 2010.
Outside of the Flores accomplishment, Arkansas did most of the celebrating during the finale on Labor Day. Facing Ian Kennedy (L, 0-1) on MLB rehab assignment from Kansas City, the Travelers jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished it.
The visitors scored three runs in a first on a RBI single by Joey Curletta and a two-run double by Chris Mariscal . Northwest Arkansas would respond with a run in the home half as Samir Duenez cranked his 10th home run of the year to make it 3-1.
The game remained 3-1 into the fourth before the Travelers extended the lead to 5-1. Mariscal doubled to begin the inning and scored on a triple by Donnie Walton to the wall in deep right-center before Amaral brought home Walton with a sacrifice fly.
Kennedy's day was done after 77 pitches, 50 of which went for strikes. The veteran right-hander gave up six runs on seven hits in 4.0 complete innings of work in his rehab assignment. In the fifth, Northwest Arkansas turned to Foster Griffin , the pitcher originally scheduled to start today's finale, but the Travs were able to get to him for a pair on a two-run double by Walton.
North Little Rock added yet another tally in the sixth to extend the lead to 8-1 as Chuck Taylor drove home Amaral with a single; however, Northwest Arkansas would cut the deficit back to 8-2 in the seventh on a solo homer from Alfredo Escalera . Escalera would add another solo shot in the ninth for his first two-homer game of the year to set the final score at 8-3.
A day after a former Natural in Matt Tenuta took the loss for the Travelers, a former Natural right-hander Ashton Goudeau (W, 4-5) was not as friendly as the tall right-hander picked up his fourth win of the year by tossing 6.0 innings of one-run baseball.
Even with the loss, the Naturals won the series over the Arkansas Travelers. Northwest Arkansas finishes 19-19-5 in series.
Today's game against the Travelers marked the conclusion of the Texas League's 2018 regular season. Northwest Arkansas will now head into the off-season while the Arkansas Travelers (Mariners) will host the Tulsa Drillers (Dodgers) in Game 1 of the Texas League North Divisional Series on Wednesday, September 5 in North Little Rock. The Naturals will return to Arvest Ballpark next year on Thursday, April 4, 2019 when they'll host the Springfield Cardinals on Opening Night of the 2019 season.
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 the upcoming 2019 season 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.