3B Paul DeJong hammered a pair of solo home runs for the Springfield Cardinals, but the Northwest Arkansas Naturals took the series finale, 8-3, before 6,767 fans at Arvest Ballpark on Friday night. The Cardinals lead the Naturals by 1.5 games for 1st place in the North Division Standings.
The two home runs mark DeJong’s first multi-home run game in Double-A, with the third baseman hitting all five of his homers on the year since last Sunday.
The Naturals (13-14) rallied early with five unearned runs in a six-run bottom of the second against RHP Daniel Poncedeleon (L, 1-3) and the Cardinals (15-13). After an inning-opening strikeout, RF Orlando Calixte doubled himself on. 3B Mauricio Ramos reached on an infield single, followed by a walk from C Cameron Gallagher to load the bases with one down. LF Logan Moon then drove in the game’s first run with an RBI single through the right side, bringing in one and keeping the bases loaded. CF Terrance Gore followed with a chopper to 2B Breyvic Valera. Valera fired home, but his throw dragged C Carson Kelly’s foot off the plate, enabling everyone to be safe on the fielder’s choice and Ramos to score on the throwing error. A passed ball charged to Kelly then brought home Gallagher to make it 3-0. After a fielder’s choice retired Moon at the plate, SS Raul Mondesi reached on a fielding error committed by Valera, bringing Gore in from third base. With RHP Josh Lucas taking over on the mound, 1B Ryan O’Hearn dealt the final blow of the frame with a two-run double, extending the lead to 6-0.
The Naturals added a seventh run on an RBI single by Gore in the third, but the Cardinals started chipping away in the top of the fourth against LHP Matt Strahm (W, 2-1). Leading off the frame, DeJong crushed his first solo home run of the night to left field, swinging the Cards onto the board, 7-1.
Springfield edged closer in the top of the fifth with an unearned run of its own. Making his Double-A debut, LF Nick Thompson rifled a double to left-center field to start the frame. After a pair of groundouts with Thompson at third, SS Alex Mejia reached on a throwing error committed by SS Raul Mondesi, enabling Thompson to race home and cut it to a 7-2 deficit for the Cardinals.
RHP Kurt Heyer tossed a pair of scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth, but the Naturals added an eighth run in the seventh. With one down, Calixte and Ramos knocked consecutive singles to again start a Northwest Arkansas rally. Heyer battled back with a strikeout of Gallagher, but Moon connected with his second RBI single of the night, bringing in Calixte for the 8-2 advantage.
With Strahm done after seven innings on the mound, the Cardinals chipped the deficit back to five runs against RHP Benino Pruneda, Jr. in the top of the eighth. Following a pair of strikeouts, DeJong clobbered his second solo shot of the game, this time driving it out to right-center field, cutting it down to an 8-3 lead for the Naturals.
After Heyer dealt a scoreless bottom of the eighth, his fourth relief inning of the game, Naturals RHP Andrew Edwards tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to close the 8-3 win for Northwest Arkansas.