The Tulsa Drillers seemed poised for a game-winning rally Saturday night in the bottom of the ninth inning before, a "web gem" double play from Northwest Arkansas sent the game into extra innings. The Naturals carried the momentum into the tenth inning, scoring three times to post a 5-2 win before a sellout crowd at ONEOK Field.
The heartbreaking defeat left the Drillers with a 3-3 record on their eight-game homestand. Their season record also fell to .500 at 11-11.
With the scored tied at 2-2 entering the bottom of the ninth, the Drillers came close to winning the game when they loaded the bases with one out on a pair hits and an intentional walk. With Angelys Nina at the plate, the Naturals moved their infield in and brought outfielder Whit Merrifield in as an extra infielder. Nina, who already had three hits in the game, scorched a liner a few feet left of first base, but second baseman Angel Franco made a diving catch before flipping to Matt Fields at first to double off Delta Cleary Jr. and end the threat.
Given a new life, the Naturals quickly took advantage in the top of the tenth. Facing reliever Mike Solbach, Matt Fields drew a leadoff walk and raced to third on a double by Merrifield. Alex McClure followed with a sacrifice fly that plated Fields with the go-ahead run.
Northwest padded its lead when Brett Eibner singled home Merrifield. After another hit, Rey Navarro capped the three-run rally with a sacrifice fly that gave the Naturals a 5-2 lead.
In the bottom of the tenth, the Drillers got a leadoff single from Kent Matthes, but a double play and a fly out ended the game.
The Naturals had taken an early lead in the contest with a pair of first-inning runs. Eibner, the game's first batter, drew a walk to open the game and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Navarro singled home Eibner before moving to third on another hit by Mitch Canham. A sacrifice fly from Yem Prades put the Naturals in front 2-0.
The Drillers got one of the runs back in the bottom of the second when Kiel Roling doubled and scored on a base hit by Jose Gonzalez.
They tied the game at 2-2 with another run in the fifth. With one out Nina singled, swiped second and moved to third when catcher Canham's throw sailed into centerfield. A fly ball to shallow center field from Matthes was not deep enough to plate the run, by Kyle Parker followed with a big, two-out single that brought Nina home to even the score.
Tulsa starting pitcher Dan Houston did not receive a decision in the game, but he pitched well enough to earn his first win of the year. Houston allowed eight hits and only two runs in six innings.
Cory Riordan worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning in relief of Houston, and Mike Marbry retired all six hitters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings.
Both teams finished with 12 hits in the game, with five Tulsa players having more than one hit. Nina's three hits led the way, and Mathes, Parker, Gonzalez and Cristhian Adames had two each.
The two teams will be right back in action with an afternoon game Sunday at ONEOK Field. Christian Bergman (1-1, 2.49 ERA) will pitch for the Drillers against Brooks Pounder (0-1, 3.68 ERA) of the Naturals. Starting time is slated for 2:05PM.
Fans not able to attend the game can listen to the action live on AM1430, The Buzz in Tulsa. The broadcast is also available at TulsaDrillers.com, or through the I Heart Radio app or website.
NOTES: The Drillers announced a roster change after the game. Riordan was reassigned to Triple A Colorado Springs, while Juan Gonzalez will be added to the roster from extended spring training. . . .In addition to his three hits, Nina also added two stolen bases in the game. Matthes stole his team-leading fourth base.