CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Late runs proved the difference in the Naturals 5-2 loss in the series opener against the Corpus Christi Hooks on Thursday night in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,213 at Whataburger Field.
Northwest Arkansas (2-5) trailed 1-0 entering the fourth inning. With two-outs, Corey Toups and Donnie Dewees strung together consecutive base-hits to set the table for a two-run double by Alfredo Escalera , giving the Naturals a 2-1 lead. The hometown Hooks (3-4) scratched across the tying run in the ensuing half inning to deadlock the two clubs over the middle innings.
Right-hander, Yunior Marte kept the Corpus Christi bats at bay working 2.2 innings of shutout relief and struck out five hitters over his appearance. The 23-year old hurler fanned the final four hitters faced in the outing. The five strikeouts marked the most by Marte in a Double-A game and the most since he fanned five hitters on April 5, 2017 while pitching with Wilmington.
Corpus Christi broke through for two runs in the seventh inning off reliever, Corey Ray (0-1, 10.38) before reliever, Sam Selman entered to strikeout the lone batters he faced to end the seventh frame. The Hooks tacked on a fifth run in the eighth inning against right-hander, Jason Adam on an infield, run-scoring single en route to the 5-2 win despite Adam fanning the side in the frame.
Toups finished 1-for-4 on the night and has hit safely in all seven games this season. Dewees tabbed his first multi-hit game of the season going 3-for-4 with a run scored. Samir Duenez cracked his fourth double of the season and scored during the two-run fourth inning. Catcher, Luis Villegas recorded his second multi-hit game of the season with a 2-for-3 showing.
Northwest Arkansas out-hit Corpus Christi in the loss, 11-8 marking the first time the Naturals have accrued more knocks than an opponent this season.
The Naturals look to even the series on Friday night with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch. Royals' No. 10 prospect (Baseball America), right-hander, Scott Blewett (0-1, 9.82) will take the hill for his second start for the Naturals this season. Left-hander, Ryan Hartman (0-0, 0.00) will counter for the Hooks. Hartman will be the third left-handed starter to face the Naturals in 2018.
Join the Voice of the Naturals, Benjamin Kelly, with a 6:45 p.m. Indigo Sky Casino Pregame Show on AM-1590, the Ticket-2, leading up to first pitch from Whataburger Field.
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 2018 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.