After eliminating the Northwest Arkansas Naturals from playoff contention with their extra-inning win Friday, the Tulsa Drillers rallied from behind with two outs in the ninth inning Saturday to upend the Springfield Cardinals in their final series opener of the 2013 regular season.
With two outs in the ninth and Tulsa trailing 6-5, Kyle Parker reached on an infield single to keep his team's hopes alive. Dustin Garneau followed suit with a base hit of his own to put runners on the corners for Tyler Kuhn. Kuhn worked the count to 2-2 before hitting a potentially game-ending ground ball to the right side. Cardinals' first baseman Xavier Scruggs, however, was unable to make the play, allowing Kuhn to reach base and Parker to scamper home with the tying run.
Tulsa manager Kevin Riggs then opted to go with Texas League Post-Season All-Star Angelys Nina as a pinch hitter. His decision paid off. Nina bounced a single through the middle and into center field, driving home Garneau from second to give the Drillers a 7-6 victory on the road to close out the month of August.
The Drillers now have two regular season games left before beginning the North Division Playoff Series next week. Tulsa will face off with the Arkansas Travelers in a best-of-five series that will begin at ONEOK Field on Wednesday, September 4. Game two will be played Thursday in downtown Tulsa.
The winner of the division series will advance to the best-of-five Texas League Championship Series.
Tulsa wasted no time getting on the board Saturday, plating a pair of runs in the first to take a 2-0 lead. After an error by left fielder Starlin Rodriguez allowed Delta Cleary Jr. to advance all the way to third base, Cristhian Adames drove in the leadoff man Cleary Jr. with a groundout to shortstop. An out later, Garneau walked to extend the inning then scored when Kuhn laced a triple to left.
The Redbirds plated three runs in the home half of the second to turn their deficit into a one-run advantage. Xavier Scruggs led off the inning with his 27th home run of year. His teammates then followed with back-to-back-to-back singles and a sacrifice fly to make it 3-2 Springfield.
The Drillers used small ball to tie the game in the fourth as Dallas Tarleton singled with one out, was bunted over to second and scored on a Cleary Jr. RBI single. The stalemate, however, would be short lived as Springfield responded with three runs in the bottom half of the inning.
With runners on first and second, Luis Mateo's two-out double to left scored Adam Melker with the go-ahead run. After Starlin Rodriguez walked, Ruben Gotay rapped a two-run base hit into center field to put the Cards in front 6-3.
Tulsa quickly cut its deficit to one with two runs in the fifth. Adames led off the inning with a single to extend his hitting streak to a Drillers team-high 15 games and, after a strikeout, scored when Dustin Garneau blasted his 13th homer of the season. The two-run shot sailed over the left field wall. Kuhn followed with his second triple of the night, this one to right, only to be stranded 90 feet away.
The scored remained 6-5 until Tulsa's ninth inning rally.
Drillers' reliever Mike Solbach, who came on in the eighth, worked around a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth to record the win.
Cleary Jr. and Garneau each turned in three-hit performances to lead the Drillers offensively.
The two teams will return to Hammons Field on Sunday for game two of their three-game series. Eddie Butler (1-0, 0.73 ERA), the #3 prospect in the Rockies organization according to MLB.com, will toe the rubber for Tulsa against Redbird left-hander Tim Cooney (7-9, 4.00 ERA). Game time is scheduled for 6:09PM in Springfield.