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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/THOMAS METTHE -- 4/13/2019 -- Northwest Arkansas Naturals shortstop Taylor Featherston (12) tries to turn a double play after getting out Arkansas Travelers baserunner Aaron Knapp (1) during the bottom of the eighth inning of the Travelers' 2-1 loss on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock. - Photo by Thomas Metthe

Jordan Abram wanted two things from his first professional baseball game — Thunderstix and an Arkansas Travelers’ victory.

The 10-year-old from Clarendon had to settle for the red and plastic blow-up souvenirs.

Northwest Arkansas right-hander Ofreidy Gomez limited the Travelers to two singles in seven innings of work, helping the Naturals snap a nine-game losing skid with a 2-1 victory at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock on Wednesday afternoon.

Jordan and the majority of the 6,035 youth-heavy shrieking crowd hardly had time to become comfortable in their seats before the Naturals opened the game with three consecutive hits and their two runs. The majority of the “Baby Shark Dance” listening mob had left the park long before the Travs scored their lone run in the eighth.

“I just want to make sure they’re all safe,” Travelers Manager Mitch Canham said about the youth at the ballpark. “I love the noise. There’s some excitement, so you have to raise your voice a little bit, which is fine. I like to see them have an awareness of baseball, and I like the kids to come out and have a good time. As a father, I focus on safety.”

Jordan and his fifth-grade classmates from the Clarendon-Holly Grove School District had prime seats for their annual excursion to the Travelers’ home field, sitting in Section 211 on the third-base side. It was the fifth consecutive year the school has made such a trip, but it was the first for Jordan.

“It’s really cool,” said Jordan, who admitted to being more of a basketball fan. “I didn’t know I was getting the Thunderstix until I got here. That’s my favorite.”

The first 2,000 kids entering the park were given the bright, red mementos. Everybody was subjected to the infectious children’s song “Baby Shark Dance” by Pinkfong!, which was heard over the public-address system five times during the afternoon.

“I’m glad to be out of school for the day,” said Ian Southern, a classmate of Jordan’s who was also attending his first professional baseball game. “This is fun.”

CleAnn Brown, a sixth-year teacher at Clarendon who has organized the annual outing, said the Travelers’ organization deserves a lot of credit for hosting the kids day games.

“They know how to communicate with you and that’s important,” Brown said. “And our district has always been good about this trip. They advocate that the kids go out and experience events like this. It’s something we look forward to every year. We love it.”

The Travelers squandered a respectable starting performance from Zac Grotz (0-1). After allowing three singles to start the contest, the right-hander allowed only three more Naturals to reach base. Grotz struck out seven and walked none in his five innings. Only one of the runs he allowed was earned.

Gomez, however, was even better. The Naturals’ starter held the Travelers hitless for the first 4 2/3 innings before giving up back-to-back singles to Joseph Odom and Aaron Knapp. Gomez (1-0) retired the final seven batters he faced to finish with the two-hitter. He struck out seven, walked one and hit a batter.

“He mixed his pitches a lot and threw inside,” Canham said of Gomez. “He kept up a solid tempo and forced us to expand our zone.

“You’re going to get guys who are locked in on certain days. The encouraging thing for us is that we made a strong push.”

Nick Heath and D.J. Burt both singled to start the first inning. With the runners going and the infielders all moving for an expected bunt, Khalil Lee sent a ground ball past third baseman Joe De-Carlo for a run-scoring single. A second run came across when left fielder Kyle Lewis’ throw back to the infield sailed wide.

The Travs pulled to within a run in the eighth. Odom opened the inning with a single and advanced to second on a walk by Knapp.

Jake Fraley, who entered Wednesday’s game with at least one hit in 10 of the Travelers’ 11 games, reached on a fielder’s choice that sent pinch runner Connor Hoover to third.

Donnie Walton, who drove in both of the Travelers’ runs in Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over the Naturals, knocked in Hoover with a ground out.

Left-handed reliever Gabe Speier pitched a spotless ninth to pick up his first save of the season.

Travelers relievers Darin Gillies and Bryan Bonnell each tossed two scoreless innings. Both of them struck out two batters and gave up one hit each.

The Travelers finished their first home stand with a 4-2 record, and hold a three-game advantage over Tulsa in the Texas League North.

Naturals homestand

Northwest Arkansas Naturals

At Arvest Ballpark, Springdale



TODAY vs. Springfield, 7:05 p.m.

FRIDAY vs. Springfield, 7:05 p.m.

SATURDAY vs. Springfield, 6:05 p.m.


TODAY Thirsty Thursday features $1 small Coke fountain drinks, $1 mozzarella sticks and $2 bags of peanuts, along with $2 16-ounce PBR drafts. FRIDAY Post-game fireworks.

SATURDAY It’s Princess and Cowboy Night with fans encouraged to dress up. There will be an Easter Egg hunt for kids following the first inning. … Half-price specials will be available at the Bullpen Craft Beer Bar from 4:30-5:30 p.m. prior to the game, and BBQ sliders will be available for $1.50 only during happy hour.


Northwest Arkansas (5-9) snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 2-1 win at Arkansas on Wednesday. … Ofreidy Gomez tossed seven scoreless innings, and Khalil Lee drove in a run for the Naturals. … Kansas City Royals pitcher Danny Duffy is scheduled to make a rehab start on Saturday against Springfield. … Duffy last pitched in NWA in 2013, making four starts and going 0-2 with a 3.94 ERA. … Shortstop Taylor Featherston ranks fifth in the Texas League in hitting at .386 going into Wednesday’s finale of the Naturals’ seven-game road trip. … Gabriel Cancel is tied for second in the league with four doubles. … Pitcher Conner Green ranks second in the league with 20 strikeouts, just one behind league leader Justin Dunn of Arkansas. … Northwest Arkansas has hit just four home runs in its first 13 games, the least in the Texas League, to go with a league-high 19 errors. … But the Naturals have a league-best 24 stolen bases.


Home plate/Super Premium: $14

Dugout Super Premium: $13

Dugout Premium: $11

Reserved: $9

Grass Berm: $8

*Individual tickets $1 off when purchased in advance of game day.



The Northwest Arkansas Naturals have a clear bag policy at all home events at Arvest Ballpark.

Each ticketed fan is allowed to bring in one clear bag and/or a small clutch purse and one clear unopened bottle of water.

The following bags will be permitted at Arvest Ballpark:

Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12” x 6” x 12”

One-gallon clear plastic freezer bag

A small clutch purse, no larger than 4.5” x 6.5”, the size of the palm of your hand, with or without a handle or strap

— Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB

Print Headline: Naturals stop skid, top Travelers


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