SPRINGDALE, Ark - Trailing 3-0 in the third, Northwest Arkansas got the offense going as a seven-run third inning propels the Naturals (14-22) to an 8-4 victory over the Tulsa Drillers (20-16) on Monday night at Arvest Ballpark. Infielders Gabriel Cancel and Travis Jones combined to knock in five as the Naturals take the series opener and improve to 10-7 at home this year.
The scoreless game changed quickly in the third as both teams posted crooked numbers. Tulsa used three consecutive singles to load the bases before an error on a hard hit ball to third by Gavin Lux plated the first two runs for the visitors. Omar Estevez followed with an infield single to deep short and then Zach Reks increased the advantage to 3-0 with a sacrifice fly to right.
Northwest Arkansas would not trail for long though as Kort Peterson got the home half of the frame going with a single to left-center. He advanced on a sacrifice bunt then came into score on a single by Nick Heath . After a Khalil Lee singled and a couple of stolen bases put runners at second and third, Cancel drove home both with a RBI double into the gap in right-center. Two batters later, Jones stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and belted a bases-clearing double to left-center for the 6-3 lead. Jones would then steal third base to setup a sacrifice fly by Anderson Miller to give the Naturals a commanding 7-3 lead.
Lux would drive in a run with a single in the fourth to bring the Drillers to within three at 7-4 but that would be as close as they would get as Northwest Arkansas would record their final tally in the sixth on a run-scoring single by Emmanuel Rivera .
After the shaky third, starter Conner Greene (W, 3-2) settled in and was solid throughout his 7.0 innings of work. The hard-throwing right-hander gave up four runs, three earned, on eight hits while striking out three and only walking one on the night.
After Greene exited, left-hander J.C. Cloney came in and did the rest with 2.0 perfect frames to go along with three punch outs.
Veteran knuckleballer J.D. Martin (L, 1-3) took the loss for Tulsa as he gave up seven runs on seven hits in 5.0 innings.
Both teams had eight hits as Cancel and Jones led the way for Northwest Arkansas with two hits apiece to go along with their five combined RBIs. The Naturals also flashed their speed against the soft-tossing right-hander for Tulsa as they swiped six bases on seven attempts with Jones tallying three and Lee with two while Heath picked up his league-leading 19th stolen base.
Northwest Arkansas will continue their 7-game homestand with Game 2 of this 3-game set against the Tulsa Drillers (Double-A Los Angeles Dodgers) tomorrow night - Tuesday, May 14 - at Arvest Ballpark. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. and it's an Arvest Customer Discount Night with Johnsonville Buck-A-Brats. The Naturals will send right-hander Jace Vines (1-4, 4.73 ERA) to the mound while the Drillers have yet to officially name a starter. Catch the play-by-play action with the Voice of the Naturals Benjamin Kelly on KQSM - 92.1 The Ticket at 6:45 p.m. for the Indigo Sky Casino Pregame Show leading up to first pitch.
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.