The Midland RockHounds are heading home needing just one more win to make history. The RockHounds raced out to a 6-0 and held on to earn a 6-4 victory and move to a 2-0 series lead over the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Midland will get their first crack at taking the crown on Thursday at home.
Corey Walter got the start for Midland and he squared off with Royals' prospect Eric Skoglund. The game was a pitcher's duel early with the two pitchers trading zeros for the first three innings. In the top of the fourth, Midland put together a rally. Yairo Munoz and Viosergy Rosa each singled to start the inning. After an Andy Paz sacrifice bunt, J.P. Sportman rapped a single to left to give the RockHounds a 1-0 lead. Richie Martin the followed with a sacrifice fly into right field foul territory to give the RockHounds a 2-0 lead.
In the top of the fifth, Midland added three more runs to their tally. With one-out, Tyler Marincov continued his post-season tear with a double just over the left-fielder's head. Beau Taylor was then hit in the hand by a Skoglund pitch. He appeared to be in significant pain, but the Texas League post-season All-Star remained in the game and appears to have escaped serious injury. Munoz made the Naturals pay with an RBI single to the right side, past the diving first baseman. Rosa grounded out to move Munoz to second and then Paz opened up the game with a two-out, two-run single.
As he did throughout the regular season, Walter breezed through his five innings of work. He didn't strike-out anyone, but he allowed just four hits and one walk. He also recorded seven outs on the ground.
Walter left the game after five innings with a 6-0 lead thanks to a Martin solo homer in the top of the sixth. The game quickly got interesting in the bottom of the inning, however, when the Naturals scored three runs (two earned) off of Sam Bragg. In the seventh, the Naturals drew closer when they scratched across a run against Lou Trivino. Trivino, who had recorded the final two outs in the sixth, left in the seventh with two-on and two-out. On came Kyle Finnegan, who struck-out Samir Duenez to end the threat. Finnegan then worked a clean and easy eighth inning, cutting off the Naturals' growing momentum.
As he did on Tuesday, Jake Sanchez came on in the ninth to protect a two-run lead. Sanchez left no room for drama on Wednesday, striking out the side to secure his second save of the series.
Brett Vertigan had three hits from the lead-off spot to raise his post-season average to .423. Marincov is also batting .423 after his two-hit night. Martin drove-in two with his homer and his sac fly, while Sportman and Munoz added two-hit nights.
Brandon Mann takes the hill for Midland tomorrow night, as they look to close out the series with a sweep.