SPRINGDALE -- Penn Murphree finished out a strong month of June by allowing just two hits over six innings to help the Arkansas Travelers earn a 5-1 win over Northwest Arkansas on Friday night at Arvest Ballpark.
Murphree (4-1) gave up just one unearned run, and three Travelers relievers combined for three scoreless innings to help Arkansas get back over .500 at 23-22.
Murphree followed up his three-hit shutout against Tulsa by shutting down the Naturals. He's been outstanding in June after a rocky start. He's now 3-0 for the month with a 1.38 ERA, allowing just 4 earned runs over 26 innings.
Arkansas Manager Collin Cowgill said the slider has been the big pitch for the 27-year-old.
"First and foremost, it's location for Murph," Cowgill said. "When he throws strikes, when he gets ahead, the slider's an absolute wipe-out pitch. The other night he threw a complete-game shutout and he just filled the zone with strikes. That's the key to his success.
"As long as he does that, he's one of the best guys in this league."
Northwest Arkansas Manager Scott Thorman credited Murphree for his efforts.
"He had a sinker-slider-changeup mix and he kept us off-balance, and he made pitches when he had to," Thorman said. "And he got plays when he had to. I thought we had something going on [Nick] Pratto's line drive in the left-center field gap, but it didn't fall and we were on the wrong side of the ball it seemed like most of the night."
The Travelers got enough offense to back that strong pitching as eight of the nine hitters picked up at least one hit. Bobby Honeyman, Joe Rizzo and Stephen Wrenn each had two hits.
Arkansas broke the game open in the eighth thanks to a two-out, two-run single by designated hitter Dom Thompson-Williams to go up 5-1.
Jordan Cowan led off the inning with a single and Rizzo followed with a double to put runners at second and third. Naturals reliever Dylan Coleman came back to get a pop-up and a strikeout, but he gave up the bloop single to drive in a pair.
Arkansas took advantage of a pair of walks by Naturals reliever Derrick Adams (0-2) as Josh Morgan came through with a two-out RBI single to grab a 2-1 lead in the fifth.
Brian O'Keefe added to the Travs' lead with his ninth home run of the season, a solo shot to left field leading off the top of the sixth. But Arkansas got nothing more. Northwest Arkansas reliever Robert Garcia got Connor Kopach on an infield pop-up and struck out Thompson-Williams to leave runners at second and third.
The Travs broke on top 1-0 in the top of the third on Honeywell's two-out double down the left-field line, which scored Wrenn. Wrenn beat out an infield single leading off the inning, stole second and moved to third on catcher Freddy Fermin's throwing error.
Northwest Arkansas (21-22) tied it in the bottom of the inning as Dairon Blanco reached on a two-base error, went to third on Blake Perkins' bunt single and scored on Clay Dungan's sacrifice fly.
ARKANSAS TRAVELERS AT NW ARKANSAS NATURALS
WHEN 6:05 p.m.
WHERE Arvest Ballpark, Springdale
PITCHERS Arkansas — RHP Devin Sweet (1-3 5.45 ERA). NW Arkansas — RHP Jon Heasley (3-1 3.05 ERA).
TICKETS Home Plate Super Premium Ticket – $14.75; Dugout Super Premium Ticket – $13.75; Dugout Premium Ticket – $11.75; 1B/3B Reserved Ticket – $9.75; Grass Berm/General Admission – $8.75.
PROMOTIONS Scout groups may receive discounted tickets and camp out overnight in the outfield grass at Arvest Ballpark. They will also receive a special scout patch. In addition, fans may purchase half-price beverages from 4:30-5:30 p.m. at the Craft Beer Bar.
NATURALS THIS WEEK
TODAY vs. Arkansas, 6:05 p.m.
SUNDAY vs. Arkansas, 2:05 p.m.
MONDAY Off day
TUESDAY at Springfield, 6:35 p.m.
WEDNESDAY at Springfield (DH), 5:05 p.m.
THURSDAY at Springfield, 7:05 p.m.
FRIDAY at Springfield, 7:05 p.m.