Tuesday, May 03, 2011

SPORTS >> Travelers, Naturals play them when they can

Leader sports editor

The weather had a say in yet another Arkansas Travelers-Northwest Arkansas Naturals series, but they did get some games in at Dickey-Stephens Park.

The Naturals beat the Travelers 3-0 behind a solid group-pitching effort led by starter Mario Santigo and lone runs in the fourth, sixth and eighth innings.

It turned out to be the finale of yet another rain-shortened series as Sunday and Monday’s games were rained out and will be made up in doubleheaders June 8 and June 10. The Travelers and Naturals were forced to play a doubleheader during their first meeting in Springdale in April, and will have to make up another rainout in a doubleheader at Arvest Ballpark May 23.

Santigo pitched six innings Saturday, striking out six and giving up two hits and one walk. Reliever Eduardo Paulino struck out three in two innings and Patrick Keating survived two hits in the ninth to get the save.

Arkansas starter Eddie McKiernan pitched well over five innings as he struck out two and walked none, but among his three hits was an RBI single by Mario Lisson in the fourth that stuck McKiernan with the loss.

Jeff Bianchi added an RBI fielder’s choice off reliever Andrew Taylor in the sixth and Anthony Seratelli hit an RBI single off Taylor in the eighth.

Sunday’s and Monday’s scheduled day games, including Arkansas’ second kids’ day game that was set for 11 a.m. Monday, were washed out to leave the Travs (9-10) 2 ½ games behind first-place Tulsa, where they were playing Tuesday night, and in third place in the Texas League North.

Northwest Arkansas (11-9) was in second, a game behind Tulsa (13-9).

In all, Arkansas has been rained out seven times in just under a month. The Travs are 2-2 against the Naturals, the defending Texas League champions.

In Friday’s series opener, the Travelers held the Naturals to just three hits while Luis Jimenez drove in three runs as Arkansas won 6-3.

Orangel Arenas pitched six innings to get the victory, giving up three runs on three hits, walking two and striking out three.

Northwest Arkansas led 3-1, but Arkansas posted a five-run fourth. Adam Younger hit a sacrifice fly, Jay Brossman scored on a wild pitch, Darwin Perez drove in a run with a bloop single and Jimenez hit a two-run single to left for the 6-3 lead.

Arkansas’ first run came when Jimenez drove in Perez with a sacrifice fly to cut it to 2-1 in the third. Northwest Arkansas’ Salvadore Perez singled and scored on a fielding error to make it 3-1 in the Naturals’ fourth.

Northwest Arkansas got its first two runs Nick Van Stratten’s RBI single and a run-scoring error by Travs shortstop Adam Younger in the third.

Northwest Arkansas starter Heath Rollins got the loss while Travs reliever Steven Geltz pitched two perfect innings with four strikeouts and Ryan Brasier worked the ninth for his fourth save of the year.

Brasier, who threw a nine-inning no-hitter at Dickey-Stephens Park last year, was moved to the bullpen this season.