North Little Rock, Arkansas - The Arkansas Travelers finished a three-game sweep of the Tulsa Drillers for the Texas League North Division Championship on Friday night with a 5-2 victory led by catcher Jett Bandy. Making his only start of the series, Bandy drove in four runs with a pair of doubles helping the Travs to their 11th straight victory.
The Travs now move on to the Texas League Championship Series which is set to begin either in San Antonio or Corpus Christi on Tuesday night. The first two games will be played at the South Division champion before the series shifts to Dickey-Stephens Park for games 3-5 to be played September 13, 14 and 15.
Bandy got the first shot to do damage when the Travs loaded the bases with one out. Robbie Widlansky reached when his grounder skipped past Tulsa first baseman Dustin Garneau, who made just his fourth career start at first base. Jimmy Swift singled to left field, and Travis Witherspoon walked. Bandy fought off foul consecutive foul balls then hit a grounder up the third-base line that took a bounce over Joey Wong, who dove for the ball near the line. All three runners scored while Bandy stopped at second with a double.
Tulsa nudged back into the game in the fourth inning also loading the bases with one out against Mark Sappington with a single by Kyle Parker, a walk to Kiel Roling and a single by Angelys Nina. Dustin Garneau got the Drillers a run with a sacrifice fly which Tom Murphy followed with an RBI single to left field that cut the lead to 3-2 and put the tying run at third base. Sappington held the lead when Wong grounded to shortstop.
Bandy again damaged the Drillers cause in the fourth inning with his second double of the night. Kaleb Cowart reached with a one-out single and advanced to second on a groundout by Witherspoon. Bandy got ahead 2-0 and hit a high drive into the left field corner to score Cowart for a 4-2 lead.
The Travs grabbed another three-run lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. singles by Taylor Lindsey and Cyle Hankerd set up C.J. Cron with runners at first and third base with just one out. Lindsey scored when Cron's grounder past the mound was initially bobbled by Cristhian Adames costing the shortstop and chance to throw home.
Mark Sappington (1-0) finished five innings to earn the victory and allowed just two runs on four hits in five innings. Sappington issued three walks and struck out four batters.
The Travs defeated Tulsa right hander Eddie Butler, who had allowed just two total runs in six regular season starts with the Drillers. However on Friday the Travs scored five runs off Butler, four earned, on seven base hits.
Elvin Ramirez, Nick Maronde, Robert Coello and Mike Morin (SV, 2) each pitched one scoreless inning to close out the game.
The Travelers are 5-0 in first round series during the 13 seasons of affiliation with the Los Angeles Angels. They'll go for their third Texas League championship with the Angels and eighth overall since joining the league in 1966.