One day after scoring three ninth-inning runs to stage a walk-off win, the Tulsa Drillers needed no such late game heroics to post a second straight win Monday afternoon. The Drillers used two big innings to cruise to an 8-2 win over Northwest Arkansas before a sellout crowd of 8,168 at ONEOK Field. The win improved the Drillers record to 13-11 and kept them atop the standings in the Texas League's North Division.
Kiel Roling fueled the big day, finishing 2-3 with a homer and four runs batted in. The four RBI were a season high for any Tulsa hitter this season.
Starting pitcher Chad Bettis worked five innings to collect his second straight win.
Things started well for the Naturals as they scored first for the third time in the four-game series. With one out in the top of the first inning, Orlando Calixte grounded a double just inside the third base bag. After Bettis struck out Rey Navarro, Mitch Canham fisted a single into shallow centerfield that plated Calixte with the game's first run.
The Drillers first hit against Naturals starter Sugar Ray Marimon came in the bottom of the second inning and gave them a 3-1 lead. The inning began with Kyle Parker drawing a walk. Henry Wrigley then lofted a routine fly ball into shallow right, but right fielder Ramon Hernandez dropped it for an error that left runners at second and third. It was the second time in the series that Hernandez dropped a fly ball. One pitch later, Roling delivered Tulsa's first hit with his team-leading fifth home run of the year.
The Naturals cut the lead to 3-2 with another run in the fourth as Canham tripled and scored on a base hit by Yem Prades.
A pair of miscues from the Naturals helped the Drillers produce another big inning in the fifth. After Marimon struck out Jose Gonzalez to open the inning, Jaron Shepherd singled up the middle. Angelys Nina hit a grounder that looked to be an inning-ending double play, but third baseman Angel Franco booted it for an error. With runners at first and second, Joey Wong lined a double down the right field line that scored Shepherd to up the Tulsa lead to 4-1.
Kent Matthes followed with another double into the gap in left-center field that scored two more runs. Kyle Parker then lined a shot to left that a fully extended Whit Merrifield was able to get a glove on, but not pull in, as the ball fell for a base hit. With runners at first and third, Henry Wrigley hit another potential double play grounder that Franco again misplayed for an error that scored another run. A sacrifice fly from Roling capped the five-run inning and gave the Drillers an 8-1 lead.
Bettis, who struck out 11 in his last outing, worked the first five innings to improve his record to 2-1. The Texas Tech product allowed the two runs on six hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out four.
Joe Gardner worked three shutout innings of relief and retired all nine hitters he faced. Gardner has not allowed a hit in his last six innings of work, retiring 18 of the last 19 hitters he has faced.
Roling was the only Tulsa batter with more than one hit in the game as both teams were limited to just six hits each.
The Drillers will open an eight-game road trip Tuesday night in North Little Rock. The pitching matchup at Dickey-Stephens Ballpark will feature Tim Gustafson (0-1, 9.39 ERA) of Tulsa against Manny Correa (0-2, 4.95 ERA) of Arkansas. First pitch for the opener is scheduled for 7:10PM.
Fans can follow the action on the road trip by tuning to AM1430, The Buzz in Tulsa for the live play-by-play. The broadcast will also be available at TulsaDrillers.com, or through the I Heart Radio app or website.