SPRINGDALE, Ark. – The Springfield Cardinals and Northwest Arkansas Naturals split Wednesday’s doubleheader at Arvest Ballpark before 3,113 fans at Arvest Ballpark. Springfield won the first seven-inning game, 5-2, before the Naturals rallied in the bottom of the seventh in game two for a 5-4 walk-off win to avoid being swept.
With the split on Wednesday, the Cardinals maintain a 2.0-game lead over the Northwest Arkansas Naturals for 1st place in the North Division with just 13 games remaining in the 1st Half.
Game 1: Cardinals 5 vs. Naturals 2, 7 innings
The Cardinals (31-25) came out swinging, plating four runs in the top of the first against LHP Emilio Ogando (L, 3-3). CF Oscar Mercado worked a leadoff walk, before racing around to third on a double from LF Magneuris Sierra. RF Adolis Garcia then brought in Mercado with an RBI sacrifice fly to right field, driving in his 26th RBI of the season. One out later and with Sierra on at second, 3B Jacob Wilson lined a two-out RBI single to left-center field, doubling the lead to 2-0. SS Alex Mejia then doubled the lead further, blasting a two-run home run to left field to swing the Cardinals into the 4-0 advantage.
RHP Dakota Hudson (W, 4-2) kept the four-run lead intact through four scoreless frames to start his outing, before Springfield padded the lead in the top of the fifth. With RF Adolis Garcia on at second and two away, DH Anthony Garcia lined an RBI single to left-center, stretching the lead to 5-0.
The Naturals (28-28) found a way onto the board in the bottom of the fifth. C Luis Villegas led off against Hudson with a base hit, followed by a free pass from 2B Corey Toups. Two outs later, both runners came home on a two-run single from 3B Mauricio Ramos, decreasing the Naturals deficit to 5-2.
However, Hudson got right back on track with a 1-2-3 sixth and a scoreless seventh, going the distance with a seven-inning complete game to close the Cardinals 5-2 win in game one.
Game 2: Cardinals 4 vs. Naturals 5, 7 innings
The Cardinals (31-26) again struck first, seizing the early lead in the top of the second inning of game two. Facing LHP Jake Kalish, SS Alex Mejia sparked the rally with a single. One out later, 1B Danny Diekroeger worked a walk to put runners at first and second. DH Dickie Joe Thon then grounded a ball to third that skipped past 3B Corey Toups, with the fielding error enabling Mejia to race home from second base for the 1-0 lead.
Springfield doubled the advantage with their second run in the top of the third. RF Magneuris Sierra started the stanza with an infield single, before racing around to third on a base hit from LF Anthony Garcia. An RBI sacrifice fly from 3B Jacob Wilson brought in Sierra, stretching the Springfield lead to 2-0.
Northwest Arkansas (29-28), though, got the bats going with a pair of long-balls against LHP Ian McKinney in the bottom of the third. C Nick Dini led off with a solo shot to start the stanza. After a 3B Corey Toups single and a strikeout, DH Samir Duenez drove a go-ahead, two-run home run to right field, launching the Naturals ahead, 3-2.
The Cardinals battled back into the lead with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth, which began with back-to-back infield singles from Sierra and Garcia. After 3B Jacob Wilson was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs, SS Alex Mejia lined an RBI sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Sierra and tying it, 3-3. After a strikeout and a walk, LHP Tim Hill (W, 1-2) took over on the mound to face C Jesse Jenner with the bases loaded and two away. Jenner won the battle, working an RBI walk to force home Garcia and lift Springfield back into the lead, 4-3.
With the one-run lead intact and in search of three final outs, RHP Pedro Echemendia (L, 1-2) took over for the bottom of the seventh. However, the Naturals had one last rally in store, which began with a one-out base hit from Duenez. INF Carlos Diaz replaced Duenez as a pinch runner and stayed at first as Echemendia induced a fly out to a diving CF Oscar Mercado for the frame’s second out. CF Donnie Dewees, though, extended the game with a two-out base hit, moving Diaz around to third and bringing up SS Humberto Arteaga. Arteaga placed an RBI infield single just inside the third base line, scoring Diaz from third to force the score back even, 4-4. With two on and two down, RF Logan Moon worked a walk to further extend the frame and load the bases. LF Alfredo Escalera then placed an RBI infield single up the middle, beating the play at first base to allow Dewees to score, sending the Naturals to the come-from-behind 5-4 walk-off win in the bottom of the seventh.
The Cardinals continue the road trip in Northwest Arkansas on Thursday at 7:05pm.