The new Superman film doesn't come out until early Friday morning, but on Tuesday night at ONEOK Field, Tulsa Drillers left fielder Delta Cleary Jr. did his best Man of Steel impersonation. The outfielder flew through the air to rob a home run in the first inning and capped off a furious Drillers comeback in the eighth with his go-ahead RBI single to lead Tulsa to a 4-3 series clinching victory over the Springfield Cardinals.
With the first-half of the season ending June 17, Tulsa entered the game trailing Springfield and Arkansas by just a ½ game in the North Division standings. With the win, the Drillers moved ahead of the Cardinals in the pennant chase while staying within ½ game of the Travelers as they head into a crucial five-game series in Little Rock that begins Wednesday night.
Springfield wasted no time taking an early lead. After reaching on a leadoff single and being sacrificed to second base, Mike O'Neill promptly came around to score on a soft line drive to center by Ruben Gotay. The Cardinals would have scored more if not for Cleary Jr.'s Superman catch in left.
Cleary Jr. made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Chris Swauger of a two-run homer, and then quickly got the ball back in to double off Gotay at first for an inning-ending double play.
Tulsa and Springfield each threatened to score in the following innings until both broke through in the fourth.
In the top of the fourth with the bases loaded and no out, the Cardinals' Vance Albitz punched a single through the left side to score Swauger from third. One out later, Springfield starting pitcher Ryan Sherriff got in on the action with a base knock to up the Redbirds' advantage to 3-0.
The Drillers responded in the bottom half of the inning. With runners on second and third and two outs, Springfield chose to intentionally walk Angelys Nina to get to Jayson Langfels. The third baseman made them pay with an RBI infield single down the third base line to plate Kiel Roling.
The score would hold at 3-1 until Tulsa finally broke through in the eighth.
Cristhian Adames finally chased Sherriff from the game with a single to lead off the bottom of half of the eighth. Roling then greeted Springfield reliever Kevin Thomas with an RBI double to bring the Drillers to within one. Thomas recovered to get a pair of strikeouts between a walk before giving way to Deryk Hooker.
With runners on first and third, Langfels hit Hooker's first offering down the right field line. The soft flare fell just inside the foul line for a game-tying base hit. Cleary Jr. then stepped up to the plate with a chance to play superhero again.
After watching two strikes go by, Cleary Jr. capped off the comeback with an infield single that scored Matthes from third with the eventual game-winning run.
Springfield did not go down without a fight.
Drillers reliever Juan Gonzalez got two quick outs in the ninth before giving up consecutive base hits to put the tying run on second for the Cardinals. Gonzalez would then run the count full on Gotay before inducing a game-ending popup to earn his first professional save.
Tulsa travels to Arkansas on Wednesday to begin their five-game series with the Travelers. The Drillers will send Sean Gallagher (3-0, 1.39 ERA) to the mound to begin the series, while the Travelers will counter with left-hander Michael Roth (1-1, 3.72 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10pm.