The first-place Tulsa Drillers entered a doubleheader in North Little Rock Thursday night with a ½ game lead over the Arkansas Travelers. When the long night was over, the Drillers were still in first place and still with their slim ½ game lead.
Tulsa and Arkansas split their twin-bill, with the Travs winning the first game 5-2 and the Drillers bouncing back with a 2-1 win in the second game.
The Drillers will enter the final four games of the first half with a ½ game lead over Arkansas and a 1 1 /2 game lead over Springfield. Tulsa will play two more games in Arkansas before concluding the half with two games in southwest Missouri against the Cardinals.
The Travelers will actually play one less game than the Drillers and Cards in the half due to a rainout with San Antonio that could not be rescheduled.
The first half will conclude on Monday, June 17.
In Thursday's game two victory, the Drillers broke a scoreless deadlock when they pushed across a run in the top of the fourth inning. Kiel Roling drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Travs' starter Matt Oye retired the next two hitters, but Jayson Langfels delivered a big two-out hit with a slicing double into the gap in right-center field that scored Roling.
Tulsa doubled its lead with another run in the sixth. Cristhian Adames led off with a double and moved to third on a fly out from Roling. Dustin Garneau then lifted a fly ball into shallow center field. Adames tagged and headed home on the play, and appeared to be out as Travis Witherspoon made a strong throw home, but catcher Carlos Ramirez could not handle the throw.
The Travs got on the board with a run in the top of the sixth and made a bid for more. Jimmy Swift drew a leadoff walk from reliever Juan Gonzalez and moved to second on a ground out. A base hit by Taylor Lindsey put runners at the corners for C.J. Cron. Cron belted a drive to deep right field that Delta Cleary Jr. caught in front of the outfield fence. Swift scored on the sacrifice fly to cut the Tulsa lead to 2-1.
With Lindsey at second base representing the tying run, lefthander Isaiah Froneberger came on to replace Gonzalez. Froneberger ended the threat by striking out Robbie Widlansky on a 93 m.p.h. fastball.
Tulsa manager Kevin Riggs called on closer Cole White to work the seventh and final inning. The right-hander got a strikeout and a ground out before pinch-hitter Rolando Gomez flied out to Rafael Ortega in deep centerfield to end the game.
It was the fifth save in five opportunities for White since joining the Drillers on May 14 after being released from Northwest Arkansas by the Kansas City Royals.
Josh Meuller worked a scoreless fifth inning to pick up his second win of the season.
Dan Houston, who was making his first start since May 20, was outstanding, holding the Travelers without a hit in his four innings of work. He walked three batters and struck out two, but he did not work the required five innings to collect the win.
In the first game, all of Tulsa's offense came on a pair of solo home runs from Garneau and Roling. Roling's homer was his 16th of the season, second most in the Texas League. The first baseman trails only George Springer of Corpus Christi, who has 18.
The Travelers broke a 2-2 tie in the opener with three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Drillers' starter Tim Gustafson issued a leadoff walk, followed by a base hit. With runners at the corners, Mike Marbry relieved Gustafson and surrendered a sacrifice fly to Cron that gave Arkansas the lead.
Witherspoon followed with a base hit and a stolen base that put runners at second and third. Drew Heid plated both runners with another base hit that gave the Travs the three-run cushion.
The two teams will meet in game four of their five-game set Friday night in North Little Rock. Major league veteran Roy Oswalt (2-2, 2.88 ERA) will take the mound in what will likely be his final appearance for the Drillers. The Travelers will counter with Mike Piazza (2-2, 4.13 ERA). First pitch at Dickey-Stephens Park is scheduled for 7:10PM.