Tulsa, Oklahoma - C.J. Cron led a powerful attack with two home runs helping the Arkansas Travelers to an 8-3 victory in the opener of the Texas League North Division Playoff against the Tulsa Drillers at ONEOK Field. The Travs first baseman hit two home runs, while Randal Grichuk and Robbie Widlansky also hit dingers to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Cron enjoyed his first multi-home run game of the year hitting a three-run homer and a solo blast. Widlansky followed Cron's first-inning shot with a solo blast of his own. Grichuk hit his 12th dinger against the Drillers in the fifth inning and Cron led off the sixth with another long ball. The win is the Travs' ninth straight dating back to the regular season.
The Travelers got a very solid performance from starting pitcher Michael Roth, who earned the win with seven strong innings. Roth enjoyed his longest outing of the season and allowed just two runs (one earned) on five hits and a walk while he struck out five. The left hander from Greer, South Carolina retired the last ten batters he faced.
Tulsa right hander Christian Bergman took the loss giving up all four homers and six runs in 5.2 innings.
A fielding error gave the Travs a chance to blast away for the lead in the first inning. After Bergman walked Taylor Lindsey with one out, he got Cyle Hankerd to hit a grounder to third baseman Jayson Langfels which he initially bobbled. Without a chance to force the lead runner, Langfels recovered the ball and threw wildly to first base for an error. Cron followed with depositing a three-run homer over the right field fence. Widlansky then completed the Travs' second set of back-to-back homers for the year for a 4-0 lead.
Roth allowed an unearned run in the third inning on an RBI single by Kyle Parker knocking home Delta Cleary, Jr. A heads up play in left field by Hankerd got the third out at third base. Cristhian Adames attempted to make third from first base and Hankerd fired to Kaleb Cowart for the tag to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth inning Roth allowed a double to Angelys Nina and a single to Dustin Garneau to put runners at the corners. A two-out single by Langfels cut the lead to 4-2 and put the tying runs on base. Roth retired Tyler Kuhn on a fly ball and then set down nine more Drillers in order.
Bergman settled in for the second through the fourth innings retiring 11 straight, but Grichuk hammered a solo shot in the fifth inning and Cron led off the sixth with a blast to left field for a 6-2 lead.
Grichuk led off the eighth with an infield single and scored from first base when Taylor Lindsey's fly ball landed between Parker and Cleary for an RBI double.
The Travs scored against Mike Solbach in the eighth inning as Travis Witherspoon was hit by a pitch, advanced to third on a single by Carlos Ramirez and scored on a wild pitch.
After Roth left the game, Nick Maronde worked a perfect eighth inning. Ryan Chaffee allowed a run in the ninth on two hits and a walk, but also struck out three batters.
The second game of the best-of-five North Division Playoff is set for Thursday at ONEOK Field. Lay Batista (5-8, 3.37) is set to pitch for the Travs against Tulsa's Tyler Matzek (8-9, 3.79)