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Northwest Arkansas stays alive in playoff hunt with win

by Paul Boyd | September 19, 2021 at 2:53 a.m.

SPRINGDALE -- Seuly Matias couldn't bring Northwest Arkansas back on Friday, but he more than did his part to help keep the Naturals in the playoff race on Saturday.

Matias went 3-for-4 with two home runs and a double and drove in four runs to lead Northwest Arkansas to a 7-4 win over Springfield at Arvest Ballpark.

The Naturals right fielder also helped make sure the Naturals go to the last day of the Class AA-Central regular season with a chance to advance to the best-of-5 championship series.

Northwest Arkansas improved to 63-55 and will start the final day a half-game behind Arkansas, which defeated Wichita 5-3 on Saturday. Frisco rallied to defeat Amarillo and begin the final day at 64-54 a game up on the Naturals.

Northwest Arkansas needs a win and losses by both Frisco and Arkansas to claim the spot opposite Wichita in the best-of-5 championship series.

Naturals Manager Scott Thorman said the season's been a grind at times, but there's also been some excitement over theses final weeks fighting for a playoff spot.

"These guys are finishing strong," Thorman said. "They're playing great baseball. They want it. They've been grinding all summer and it's pretty exciting to have three teams right in it into the last game of the year.

"They're having fun with it. They're playing hard and we put ourselves in a spot with a chance."

The 23-year-old Matias has only been with the Naturals for a month, but has hit four of his seven home runs over the last week. He hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the 11th on Friday evening, but it wasn't enough as the Naturals fell in a wild game 13-12.

But Saturday was a different story.

The Naturals jumped in front in the bottom of the first as Matias hammered a two-out, three-run homer over the right-center field fence. Dungan added a two-run single in the second to give Northwest Arkansas an early 5-0 lead and it never really looked back.

Matias added a solo shot in the fifth. He now has 18 home runs in 63 games this season over three levels in the minors.

Thorman said he's been right on time lately.

"He's just getting better pitches to hit and he's not missing them," Thorman said. "He's got extreme power to all fields as we've seen this last week. He can do some things to change a ballgame and we saw that the last two nights. We're looking to keep him going and put a 'W' together [today)"

Springfield got two in the fifth to chase Naturals starter Drew Parrish, who tossed a two-hit seven-inning shutout against the Cardinals three weeks ago, and pull within 6-2.

But Naturals reliever Stephen Woods Jr. got the final out of the inning, leaving two runners on base. Woods Jr. (5-7) picked up the win with 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. Josh Dye earned his ninth save with a scoreless ninth.

If the Naturals make the playoffs, they would host Games 1 and 2 of the championship series against Wichita on Tuesday and Wednesday.

TRAVELERS 5, WIND SURGE 3

Jake Scheiner accounted for three of Arkansas' five runs on Saturday as the Travelers defeated the Wichita Wind Surge in front of 5,082 fans at Riverfront Stadium in Wichita, Kan.

Scheiner's two-run double in the top of the sixth inning gave the Travelers a 4-0 lead. Aaron Whitefield hit a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh for the Wind Surge and scored on Stevie Berman's sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 4-3. Scheiner's sacrifice fly in the eighth inning scored Julio Rodriguez to provide an insurance run.

Jack Larsen's single in the third inning scored Bobby Honeyman and Jose Caballero hit a solo home run in the fifth for the Travelers.

Arkansas starter George Kirby (1-1) earned the pitching victory after allowing 2 hits over 5 2/3 innings with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts. Wichita starter Autin Schulfer (6-8) took the loss. He allowed 2 earned runs on 4 hits with 3 strikeouts in 5 innings.

With Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas and South Division leader Frisco all winning Saturday, the Travelers remain one-half game behind the RoughRiders, while the Naturals are one game back, for the second playoff spot heading into today's regular-season finale.

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Today’s game

SPRINGFIELD CARDINALS

AT NW ARKANSAS NATURALS

WHEN 2:05 p.m.

WHERE Arvest Ballpark, Springdale

ONLINE nwanaturals.com

PITCHERS NW ARKANSAS — LHP Angel Zerpa (0-3, 6.05 ERA) vs. Springfield — RHP Andre Pallante (4-7, 3.99 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 Hot dogs are $1. … Kids 12-and-under will receive a voucher for a free hot dog, Oreo cookies, teddy grahams and a small Coke fountain drink. … Kids can also run the bases at Arvest Ballpark following the game.

Print Headline: Naturals stay alive in playoff hunt

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