SPRINGDALE -- The bottom of the Arkansas Travelers' batting order made things unpleasant for a pitcher who made his Northwest Arkansas debut Tuesday night.
David Masters, Connor Kopach and Connor Lien combined for five of the Travs' first nine hits and drove in the necessary runs for their team to take a 4-2 victory over the Naturals in the first of a six-game series between the in-state rivals at Arvest Ballpark.
"That was really nice to see," Travs Manager Collin Cowgill said. "The bottom of the lineup has really been picking it up for us the last few games. It's nice to see those guys put the ball in play a little more, especially Connor Lien."
The Arkansas trio, none of which entered the game with a batting average above .210, roughed up Northwest Arkansas starter Angel Zerpa (0-1), who had joined the team earlier in the day. The left-hander, who went 4-0 with a 2.59 ERA at Class A-Advanced Quad Cities, allowed 4 runs on 6 hits while recording 9 strikeouts.
They also made things easier for Travs starter Alejandra Requena (3-1) in a game where pitchers were being checked by the umpires for foreign substances. The right-hander pitched six innings and shut out the Naturals on just two hits while not allowing a runner to get past second base.
"He mixed things up pretty good," Naturals Manager Scott Thorman said of Requena, who threw only 87 pitches after a 114-pitch outing in his previous start. "I liked the way Zerpa pitched, too. One tough break on a play that could have gone either way and it's a different ball game. I was really pleased with him."
Zerpa gave up a double to Brian O'Keefe to start the second inning, but he appeared to be out of the inning when Masters hit a grounder toward third. The ball eluded Kevin Merrell -- who also joined Northwest Arkansas earlier in the day after being reinstated from the injured list -- and allowed O'Keefe to score.
Arkansas (22-20) took advantage of the situation when Kopach singled, and Lien made it 3-0 with his two-run double down the left-field line. Kopach then closed out the Travelers' scoring with a solo home run over the left-field wall, his third in as many games, off Zerpa in the fourth.
"It's a ball that we would have liked the play made," Thorman said. "It just didn't happen this time."
Northwest Arkansas (19-21), whose home record fell to 6-12, made things interesting in the eighth against Arkansas reliever Collin Kober. Rudy Martin beat out a tap single in front of the plate and scored when Clay Dungan tripled off the wall in right-center, then Bobby Witt Jr. added an RBI single to make it a 4-2 game.
Nick Pratto was hit by a pitch to put the tying run on base, but the Travs went to Moises Gomez, who retired the next three batters to end the threat. Nick Duron threw a perfect ninth for his third save.
"Kober was lights out in his first inning but lost a little steam in his second inning," Cowgill said. "I think he was a victim of throwing too many balls early in the count, but Gomez comes in and gets three big outs for us without more damage. He's been doing that for us all year, and he's one of our reliable guys out of the bullpen."
ARKANSAS AT NW ARKANSAS NATURALS
WHEN 7:05 p.m.
WHERE Arvest Ballpark, Springdale
PITCHERS Arkansas — LHP Drew Parrish (1-1, 8.10 ERA). NW Arkansas — RHP Adam Hill (0-1, 6.14 ERA).
TICKETS Home Plate Super Premium Ticket – $14.75; Dugout Super Premium Ticket – $13.75; Dugout Premium Ticket – $11.75; 1B/3B Reserved Ticket – $9.75; Grass Berm/General Admission – $8.75.
PROMOTIONS BBQ sliders are available for $1.50 each or six for $6 at the bullpen concession stand, and baseball bingo.
NATURALS THIS WEEK
TODAY vs. Arkansas, 7:05 p.m.
THURSDAY vs. Arkansas, 7:05 p.m.
FRIDAY vs. Arkansas, 7:05 p.m.
SATURDAY vs. Arkansas, 6:05 p.m.
SUNDAY vs. Arkansas, 2:05 p.m.
MONDAY Off day
TUESDAY at Springfield, 7:10 p.m.
TRAVELERS THIS WEEK
TODAY at NW Arkansas, 7:05 p.m.
THURSDAY at NW Arkansas, 7:05 p.m.
FRIDAY at NW Arkansas, 7:05 p.m.
SATURDAY at NW Arkansas, 6:05 p.m.
SUNDAY at NW Arkansas, 2:05 p.m.
MONDAY Off day
TUESDAY at Tulsa, 7:05 p.m.