Even though the Northwest Arkansas Naturals finished last in the second half standings at 29-40, they won the first half of the season with a 40-30 record. With that being the case, the KC Royals AA squad still went in to the Texas League playoffs. NWA was in the first round and played a best of five set with in-state rival Arkansas, located in North Little Rock.
In Game 1, Parker Morin walked off the game with a two out single in the ninth that sent fleet footed Bubba Starling from first to home, with NWA winning 4 to 3. In the previous inning, Raul Mondesi tied the game with a two run homer that tied the game at three. Earlier, Arkansas had gotten 1 run in the fifth. In the bottom of the fifth, Parker Morin drove in Dozier.
The top of the ninth, it was Mark Peterson who got the win when NWA won it in the bottom of the frame, allowing a hit an a walk, while striking out two.
Video link at bottom of story.
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In Game 2 last Thursday, NWA won 5 to 3 over Arkansas. The Naturals plated all of their runs in the bottom of the 6th. Morin, Torres, and Mondesi had three straight hits, loading the bases. Bonifacio walked in a run and after Liddi struck out, Lane Adams knocked in two with a single. The two runners advanced on a throwing error, but Starling struck out for the second out. Hunter Dozier came up with a two-out 2 run single gave the Naturals a lead that they would not relinquish. Both Torres and Dozier had two hits.
Luke Farrell got the start, allowing one run on three hits and two walks, striking out four in his five innings of work. Another impressive start for Farrell (Omaha next year?). Peterson earned a save, pitching a scoreless inning.
Game 3, on Friday, Sep. 11, NWA polished off Arkansas at Arkansas scoring in 5 of 9 innings, winning six to three. In the second, Hunter Dozier knocked in Lane Adams, but then Arkansas then took a one run lead. In the fourth, Bubba hit a big two-run knock to give NWA the lead at 3 to 2. Arkansas tied it again in the bottom of the fifth of the fifth.
In an amazing sixth with one out, the Nats, without speedster Gore, who had stolen 39, this year went on a base-running rampage. Adams was hit by pitch and stole second. Bubba walked, and then Adams stole third. Then with Dozier batting, Adams amazingly stole home on the double steal. Dozier struck out, and then Bubba then stole third and was stranded. Five stolen bases in one inning!
In the seven, Parker Morin (he has turned from a defensive catcher to a pretty good hitter–for a catcher again) singled. Torres was then hit by a pitch, and Mondesi plated Morin on a single, giving the Naturals a 5-3 lead. NWA added an insurance run in the ninth. Torres singled and Mondesi tripled him home for the final run. Malcolm Culver got the save for the Naturals.
Pounders started for the Nats, and allowed three runs on four hits and two walks, striking out four in his 5.1 innings of work 4. Stumpf and Nina got holds.
Video of double steal, Starling with 2 run homer, Dozier’s clutch hit.
On Tuesday, it is a Royals prospect J. Dziedzic going up against former Royals prospect Sean Manaea for Midland in the first game of the finals for the Texas League playoffs. So far Manaea is 6 and 0 with an ERA of 1.90 since being traded to the A’s organization as part of the Ben Zobrist deal.
(Omaha is not in the playoffs this year. Their record was 80 and 64 and finished in second, tied with the I-Cubs. Their record was better this year compared to last year. The difference this year was that the LA Dodgers affiliated Oklahoma City. The Dodgers have a lot of money and according Omaha announcer, Mark Nasser, infused their team with a lot of talent. The OC Dodgers finished 86 and 58 this year, the best of any team in the 4 division Pacific Coast League.)