The Midland RockHounds are one win away from repeating as Texas League champions after an 8-6 win over the Northwest Arkansas Naturals on Wednesday night. Renato Nunez and Jaycob Brugman both homered and Anthony Aliotti had three hits to lead the Midland attack. The RockHounds can clinch the series with a win over the Naturals on Friday night on the road.
The game got off to a good start for Midland when Brugman doubled off the wall to start the game. With one out and Brugman and Aliotti at second and third, Nunez got the 'Hounds on the board with a three-run blast to left field. The homer was Nunez's second of the post-season and he has driven-in 12 runs in just six games.
The game would remain 3-0 until the bottom of the fourth, when Midland added on. The inning began innocently enough. Chad Oberacker walked with one out and moved to second on a ground-out. Beau Taylor made it a 4-0 game with a two-out RBI single to center. Taylor then came around to score on Brugman's two-run blast to left, making it a 6-0 game. The homer was Brugman's fourth of the post-season. He reached three times and is batting an even .500 in the playoffs.
The Naturals finally got on the board with a two-out RBI single off of starter Chris Jensen in the top of the fifth. In the sixth, the Naturals made the game close when Jorge Bonifacio hit a three-run homer with no outs off Jensen. The right-hander buckled down after that, striking out the next three batters to finish off his night. He allowed four runs on four hits with one walk and four strike-outs.
Seth Frankoff worked a scoreless seventh inning and the RockHounds gave their pitching staff a little more breathing room with a two-run rally in the bottom of the inning. Aliotti began the inning with his second double of the game. Nunez followed with a single that put runners on the corners with no outs for Ryon Healy, who doubled home Aliotti, moving Nunez to third. After Matt Olson was walked intentionally to load the bases, Oberacker hit into a force-out at home, but Wade Kirkland was able to bring home a run with an RBI force-out, bringing the RockHounds' lead to 8-4.
Things got a little hairy in the top of the eighth when the Naturals got two on via singles with one-out against Frankoff. Tucker Healy came on in relief and quickly extinguished the rally, striking out the next two batters swinging.
Brendan McCurry got the top of the ninth even though it wasn't a save situation. He was a little shaky to start the inning, hitting Bubba Starling with a pitch and walking Hunter Dozier. He buckled down after that, getting the next two batters to ground out. Starling scored on the second ground-out. With two outs, McCurry induced what looked to be the game-ending groundout, but Nunez couldn't field it cleanly at third, allowing the tying run to come to the plate in the form of top Royals' prospect Raul Mondesi. Once again, McCurry got the better of the match-up, striking out Mondesi to end the game on a called third strike.
The two teams travel on Thursday and resume their series on Friday. Parker Frazier will take on Luke Farrell in game three.