The Drillers were unable to generate enough timely hitting to overcome an early deficit Saturday night, falling to the Naturals 5-2 at Arvest Ballpark. After taking the lead in the second, Justin Marks and the Northwest Arkansas pitching staff denied any attempt at a Drillers rally, holding Tulsa hitters to just 2-10 with runners in scoring position for the game.
Marks, a 2012 Texas League All-Star, made his season debut on Saturday after missing the first few weeks of the season due to an injury sustained during spring training. The left-hander looked to be at full strength in this one, limiting Tulsa to just two runs (one earned) on three hits, while striking out five and walking one in 5.2 innings to record the victory.
Northwest Arkansas jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second, stringing together four consecutive hits off Drillers' starter Tyler Matzek. Catcher Manuel Pina followed Yem Prades's one-out single with a double to give Northwest Arkansas the early advantage.
The Drillers were able to limit the second inning damage, however, thanks in part to catcher Jose Gonzalez who picked Pina off second base following his RBI double to cut the momentum.
Northwest Arkansas added to their lead an inning later when Rey Navarro's double to deep left scored two to make it 3-0 Naturals.
The Drillers got a run back in the top of the fourth. Kent Matthes tripled down the right field with one out in the inning. After a groundout, designated hitter Kiel Roling laced a single up the middle to drive in Matthes and cut the Tulsa deficit to 3-1.
In the fifth, Tulsa pulled within one when center fielder Rafael Ortega drove in Jayson Langfels with a single to right. Langfels reached on an error to start the inning, advanced to second on a groundout, and stole third to setup the RBI single from Ortega.
The single was Ortega's first hit since April 11, breaking a previous 0-19 streak.
One run would be as close as Tulsa would get, as the Naturals scored two in the sixth to extend their lead back out to three. Brett Eibner doubled to plate Alex McClure who reached on a two-out single. Angel Franco then lined a shot to left off of Drillers reliever Cory Riordan to score Eibner and make it a 5-2 game.
Northwest Arkansas hitters combined for six doubles in the contest, including two from their third baseman Navarro.
Drillers' left fielder Kyle Parker just missed tying the game in the eighth as his drive to deep left-center field with two runners on was tracked down on the warning track by Naturals center fielder Prades.
Though Matzek was not outstanding in his start Saturday (4 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 K, 3 BB), the left-hander battled to keep the Drillers within striking distance early, stranding six base runners and holding Naturals' hitters to 1-8 with runners in scoring position.
The Drillers return to Springdale for their series finale with the Naturals tomorrow at Arvest Ballpark. Dan Houston (0-2, 4.80 ERA) will head to the mound for Tulsa against Northwest Arkansas left-hander Noel Arguelles (1-1, 2.93 ERA).
Starting time for the Sunday matinee is scheduled for 2:00PM. 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.