On a frigid night in Northwest Arkansas, the Tulsa Drillers bats were kept cold by a trio of Naturals hurlers. The result was a 3-2 loss for the Drillers in the opening game of a four-game series between the North Division rivals.
With the temperature at game time setting at 42 degrees, offense was at a premium in the game, but a pair of early solo home runs opened the scoring. After the Drillers failed to score in the top of the first inning, Naturals leadoff hitter Brett Eibner hit the third pitch from Chad Bettis over the left field wall. For Eibner, it was his second home run of the year.
Tulsa answered in the top of the second inning. First baseman Kiel Roling led off with his 3rd home run of the young season. The opposite-field drive cleared the bullpen and tied the score at 1-1.
The game would remain deadlocked until Northwest Arkansas struck again in the sixth inning against reliever Joe Gardner. Gardner struck out the first two hitters of the inning before catcher Manny Pina doubled. Angel Franco followed with another two-base hit that plated Pina with the go-ahead run.
The Naturals added another run in the seventh. Alex McClure led off with a base hit and stole second base to move into scoring position. After an error by second baseman Angelys Nina put runners at first and third, Rey Navarro laid down a bunt that Roling could not handle cleanly. The hit brought McClure home to make it 3-1.
Tulsa scored an unearned run in the top of the ninth to make things interesting. Kyle Parker drew a one-out walk and moved to second on ground out. Parker scored on a ground ball into centerfield off the bat of Jose Gonzalez that was ruled an error on shortstop Orlando Calixte.
Representing the possible go-ahead run, Cristhian Adames flied out to end the game.
The contest was well pitched by both teams, with only one walk surrendered in the game.
Bettis pitched effectively in his third start of the season for the Drillers. The Texas Tech product worked 4.2 innings before hitting his pitch limit. Bettis allowed four hits and one run while not issuing a walk and striking out five.
Gardner suffered the loss, dropping his record to 2-1.
The Drillers' offense collected seven hits, but only two came after the third inning. Kent Matthes ended a 0-18 stretch with three of the hits, the only Tulsa player with more than one.
Northwest Arkansas starter Sugar Ray Marimon (1-1) surrendered five hits and one run in six innings to collect his first win of the season.
Brooks Pounders worked 2.1 innings in relief of Marimon, and Edwin Carl got the final two outs of the game to pick up his second save of the year.
Game two of the series is scheduled for 7:05PM Friday evening in Springdale. Tim Gustafson (0-1, 12.79 ERA) will strive for his first win of the year for Tulsa, while highly touted prospect Yordano Ventura (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will pitch for the Naturals.
Fans can listen to the game live on AM1430, The Buzz in Tulsa. The broadcast is also available at TulsaDrillers.com, or through the I Heart Radio app or website.