The Tulsa Drillers proved once again on Thursday night that no lead is ever safe. With two runners on in the bottom of the second, slugger Kent Matthes drove an outside pitch into the visiting bullpen in right to give Tulsa a 6-0 lead over Arkansas. At that point, the Drillers seemed to be in control of the game. That was until the Travs came to bat in the top of the third.
Arkansas scored four runs in the third inning and two in the sixth to erase the six-run deficit, before taking the lead in the seventh on a solo blast from second baseman Matt Long. The Travs would tack on two more in the later innings to give them a 9-6 come from behind victory over the Drillers at ONEOK Field.
The Drillers had to settle for their second straight series split with the loss.
Tulsa struck first with two runs in the opening frame. Drillers centerfielder Delta Cleary Jr. singled to lead off the inning, and after a groundout, Matthes reached after being hit in the head by a pitch. After the two runners advanced into scoring position on a double steal, left fielder Kyle Parker grounded a ball through the middle to plate Cleary. Henry Wrigley then followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Matthes.
The Drillers added to their lead in the second, adding four more runs to their total. Joey Wong singled, and after Cristhian Adames walked, he came around to score on a double from Angelys Nina. Matthes followed with a three-run blast that increased the lead to 6-0.
It would be all Travelers from that point forward.
Drew Heid walked to leadoff the third for Arkansas before a barrage of extra base hits flipped the momentum from one dugout to the other. Travis Witherspoon, Jett Bandy, Robbie Widlansky and Long all doubled for the Travs, accounting for four runs off Tulsa starter Tim Gustafson that cut the Drillers lead to two.
In the sixth inning, Tulsa's lead would disappear all together. Right-hander Joe Gardner came on in relief of Gustafson to begin the inning and struggled with his control. In two-thirds of an inning, Gardner issued three walks, hit a batter, uncorked a wild pitch and allowed two runs as the Travs tied the score.
Isaiah Froneberger came on for Gardner and needed just one pitch to induce an inning-ending popup.
On Froneberger's second pitch to begin the seventh, Matt Long homered to deep right, putting the Travelers on top for good. Arkansas would tack on one more in the inning and another in the eighth to make the final 9-6.
After the second inning, Travs pitchers held the Drillers to just two hits, while Arkansas pounded out ten hits over the final seven frames.
With the loss, Tulsa fell to 10-10 on the season, but remained tied atop the North Division standings with Springfield, who lost to Northwest Arkansas.
The Drillers will be back in action Friday night at ONEOK Field as they kickoff a four-game series with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The pitching matchup will feature a pair of southpaws as Tulsa's Tyler Matzek (0-1, 3.38 ERA) takes on Northwest Arkansas' Noel Arguelles (1-2, 4.74 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05PM.
Fans unable to make it out to ONEOK Field 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.