Naturals clinch first half title

With an 11-8 win over the second place Springfield Cardinals on Saturday, the NW Arkansas Naturals clinched the first half Texas League North Division title.

The Naturals' win on Saturday ensures that the club will return to the Texas League playoffs at the end of the season. Last season, the Naturals advanced all the way to the championship series, where they lost to the Midland RockHounds in four games.

The NW Arkansas Naturals have now qualified for the postseason in all three years of the club's existence. In 2008, the Royals' Double-A squad earned a playoff berth with a Texas League-best 42-28 record in the season's second half. Unfortunately, the Naturals were eliminated in the semifinals that year, dropping three straight to the club's in-state rival, the Arkansas Travelers

In 2009, the Naturals again waited until the second half to earn a playoff berth, winning the second half title with a 37-33 record. After sweeping the Springfield Cardinals in three semifinal games, the club lost in the finals to Midland.

This season, the Naturals boast one of the most balanced teams in minor league baseball. The club leads the Texas League in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and runs scored, and it includes a solid bullpen and a starting rotation that placed three pitchers on the Texas League All-Star roster.

Indeed, the level of talent on the Naturals' roster is evident by the number of players the club placed on the 2010 Texas League All-Star team – nine Naturals (including five starters) were selected for the league's mid-season classic, the most of any team in the league.

The Naturals' roster might look quite different by the time the playoffs arrive in September, but the club, at this point, is on track for its best season ever.

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