2B Breyvic Valera provided the go-ahead RBI single in the top of the 12th, lifting the Springfield Cardinals to the 6-3 win against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in 12 innings before 3,957 fans at Arvest Ballpark on Thursday night. Springfield struck out 20 batters in the 12-inning contest, which lasted four hours and nine minutes.
Cardinals RHP Alex Reyes made his second start of the season for Springfield, tossing 4.1 innings with only two runs (one earned) on two hits while striking out eight batters. Reyes struck out eight of the last nine men that he retired, including each of his final four faced.
Around Reyes’s strikeouts, the Naturals (12-21, 52-51) plated their first run on a wild pitch in the first inning, before adding a second run on an error in the third, opening the 2-0 lead early on.
Reyes, though, minimized the damage before giving way to LHP Ryan Sherriff with one down and the bases empty in the fifth. Sherriff kept the Cardinals close with 1.2 scoreless innings, followed by a 1-2-3 seventh from RHP Thomas Lee.
After Naturals RHP Matt Murray (four innings) and RHP Mark Peterson (three innings) kept the Cardinals (18-16, 48-56) off the board through the first seven stanzas, Springfield broke through in the top of the eighth against RHP Benino Pruneda, Jr. Following a leadoff walk by DH Anthony Garcia, 1B Jonathan Rodriguez launched a two-run home run to left field, squaring the score at 2-2.
Lee kept the tie intact by striking out the side in the bottom of the eighth, before Springfield swung in front in the top of the ninth. A C Alberto Rosario walk started the inning, before CF Charlie Tilson knocked into a fielder’s choice that left Tilson at first with one down. With LF Mike O’Neill at the plate, Tilson took off for second base on a steal attempt. Tilson not only slid into second safely for his league-leading 34th swipe, but also took third base when the throw from C Frank Schwindel bounced away. O’Neill then ripped an RBI single over the leaping 2B Ramon Torres, scoring Tilson to lift the Cardinals into the 3-2 lead.
Springfield RHP Ronnie Shaban took over on the mound for the bottom of the ninth, but RF Lane Adams sparked the Naturals comeback with a leadoff double. 1B Alex Liddi followed with a grounder to short that led to a fielding error on SS Aledmys Diaz and a subsequent missed catch miscue by 1B Jonathan Rodriguez, enabling Adams to score the tying run on the play. Shaban, though, worked out of the rest of the inning unscathed, stranding Naturals at the corners to send the game into extra innings at 3-3.
RHP Joey Donofrio (W, 3-3) kept it even with a scoreless 10th and 11th, and the Cardinals rallied once again in the top of the 12th. Facing LHP Daniel Stumpf (L, 4-4) with one away, 3B Bruce Caldwell worked a walk and SS Aledmys Diaz ripped a single, putting runners at the first and second with one down. One out later, 2B Breyvic Valera laced an RBI single to score Caldwell from second base. Diaz advanced to third and Valera scooted to second on the throw home, setting the table for C Alberto Rosario. Rosario chopped a grounder to third, but it was misplayed by 3B Hunter Dozier, and the error enabled both Diaz and Valera to score, increasing the Cardinals lead to 6-3.
Donofrio started the bottom of the 12th with a strikeout, but a single and a walk put two men on for Northwest Arkansas. With the tying run at the plate, RHP Chris Perry took over and dealt back-to-back strikeouts, closing the 6-3 win for Springfield in 12 innings.