Nick Dini had two hits and scored four times in Northwest Arkansas' 9-4 victory over Corpus Christi Thursday night at Whataburger Field before 4,057.
The Naturals (8-6; 47-37) bullpen duo of Richard Lovelady (2-0) and Jake Newberry notched seven strikeouts over the last five innings and combined to retire 15 of 16.
Anderson Miller and Alfredo Escalera had two hits each for Northwest Arkansas. Miller drove in two runs, Cody Jones three.
The initial Hooks hitter, Ramon Laureano, drove Foster Griffin's 1-2 change-up out to left for a 1-0 lead. Well-struck singles from Kyle Tucker and J.D. Davis preceded Jon Singleton's deep fly to right, which advanced Tucker 90 feet. He moved home on Garrett Stubbs' fielder's choice.
Northwest Arkansas then packaged four hits and a sacrifice fly for two runs off Akeem Bostick. Zach Walters' opening double and one-out singles by Dini, Miller (RBI), and Escalera set the stage for Jones' run-scoring fly out.
Dini broke the tie, with his 379-foot lead-off homer to left providing the Naturals with a 3-2 advantage. It was temporary, as Jack Mayfield's 376-foot shot the same direction again knotted the score in the bottom of the fourth.
Bostick, who lasted five full innings, yielded six hits and struck out five in a 78-pitch, 53-strike start. Griffin was tagged by Laureano for a double to begin the home fifth, and then struck Tucker with a pitch. Lovelady came to the rescue, recording strikeouts of Davis and Singleton and a line-out by Stubbs. Griffin's line included eight hits and a strikeout.
Base-reaching errors by Singleton at first base and reliever Alex Winkelman (0-4) contributed to a two-run Naturals sixth. Winkelman also hit Donnie Dewees, who came around to score. Escalera dropped a first-pitch, two-on, two-out RBI bunt and Jones followed with an RBI single.
Two frames later, Corpus Christi (7-7; 40-44) endured a nightmarish four-run, three-hit, two-error eighth. Dewees, Dini, Miller, and Escalera reached consecutively, and each of the first three scored. Miller's infield hit netted an RBI, as did Jones' fielder's choice. Miller and Jones crossed as the result of an error on third baseman Davis, running the margin to six at 9-3.
A 403-foot Singleton bomb to right off Texas League save leader Newberry was the slugger's 15th.
Tucker owns a seven-game hitting streak.
The series finale is set for 7:05 Friday, Brock Dykxhoorn (2-4) vs. Naturals left-hander Jake Kalish (0-2). Bud Light presents postgame fireworks and fans can also enjoy the Texas Lottery Lucky Scratch Ticket Dance-Off.