SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Northwest Arkansas Naturals topped the Springfield Cardinals, 8-4, before 8,009 fans at Hammons Field on Saturday evening. The seventh sellout crowd of the season ranks as the third-largest crowd of the campaign at Hammons Field.
LHP Tim Cooney (L, 6-6) struck out the side in the top of the first, although the Naturals (21-15, 46-60) managed to move in front in the opening frame. With one away, SS Orlando Calixte doubled off the top of the center field fence, before racing in on an RBI double by DH Brian Fletcher for the 1-0 advantage.
Springfield (17-19, 50-54) responded right away in the bottom of the first inning against RHP Jason Adam (W, 5-10). DH Mike O'Neill started the inning with a base hit to lead off the frame and quickly swiped his way to second base. Two pop ups later, 1B Xavier Scruggs bounced a sharp grounder to 3B Cheslor Cuthbert, who fired an errant throw past first base, enabling Scruggs to reach safely and O'Neill to score, tying it at 1-1.
Northwest Arkansas, though, moved back in front in the top of the second inning. With one down, consecutive singles by LF Roman Hernandez and C Juan Graterol, along with a throwing error charged to CF James Ramsey after the Graterol base hit, put runners at second and third. 2B Rey Navarro followed with an RBI sacrifice fly that brought in Hernandez, before an RBI double from Calixte plated Graterol. The final blow of the frame came on a two-run homer by Fletcher, stretching the Naturals lead to 5-1.
The Cardinals started chipping away in the bottom of the second. With two away, O'Neill worked a walk to keep the inning alive, before moving to second base on a single from Ramsey. 3B Ruben Gotay went the opposite way with an RBI single to left field, bringing home O'Neill to decrease the deficit to 5-2.
Northwest Arkansas padded the lead once again in the top of the fourth. With one down, 2B Rey Navarro doubled himself on. Cooney retired Calixte on a pop out, and then gave way to RHP Corey Baker. Fletcher, though, struck again with an RBI single to left field, scoring Navarro to increase the lead back to four runs, 6-2.
After the Naturals added two more tallies with a two-run double by Graterol in the top of the fifth, the Cardinals cut the deficit back down in the bottom of the sixth. Facing RHP Spencer Patton, Melker worked a walk to reach base safely. SS Jake Lemmerman then launched a two-run blast over the left field wall, chipping the Naturals lead back down to four runs, 8-4.
However, the Naturals kept the Cardinals from getting any closer, closing out the 8-4 win with a scoreless ninth inning from LHP Zach Jackson.
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