Springfield, MO – The Northwest Arkansas Naturals topped the Springfield Cardinals, 7-2, before 4,592 fans at Hammons Field on Saturday evening. The Cardinals still hold a 1.5-game lead over the Naturals for 1st place in the North Division.
Cardinals CF Harrison Bader and DH Luke Voit both extended their hitting streaks to 16 games and 12 games, respectively, the two longest current streaks in the league. Bader is two games away from tying Springfield’s all-time longest hitting streak of 18 games, accomplished by four previous Cardinals.
The Naturals (17-17) powered in front with four runs in the top of the second against RHP Andrew Morales (L, 3-3). Three straight singles from RF Orlando Calixte, 3B Mauricio Ramos and C Zane Evans loaded the bases with no outs. 1B Frank Schwindel promptly unloaded the bases with a grand slam to right field, swinging the Naturals into the 4-0 advantage.
Morales, though, settled in after the second inning, blanking the Naturals through the rest of his start and retiring 11 of the final 13 batters that he faced. Morales finished with six innings of work, allowing the four runs on seven hits while striking out four.
Naturals RHP Jake Junis (W, 3-2) countered with 6.2 scoreless innings of his own, keeping the four-run advantage intact through his start.
After Northwest Arkansas added a pair of insurance runs on a two-run single from 3B Mauricio Ramos in the top of the eighth, the Cardinals (19-16) got on the board against RHP Benino Pruneda, Jr. LF C.J. McElroy, Jr. started the stanza with a free pass, before flying all the way home on an RBI triple by 2B Breyvic Valera. Valera then darted home the final ninety feet on an RBI sacrifice fly by RF Harrison Bader, chipping the deficit down to 6-2.
However, the Naturals stretched the advantage with an RBI double from CF Bubba Starling in the top of the ninth, before Pruneda struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to close the 7-2 win for Northwest Arkansas.