A sellout crowd of 8,295 viewed a strange but exciting game at ONEOK Field Friday night. It was a game that included five errors from Tulsa and three wild pitches from Northwest Arkansas. It was also a game that saw the Drillers rally from a four-run deficit, only to lose.
Tulsa overcame a 5-1 deficit with four runs in the seventh, only to see the Naturals answer with a run in the eighth and post a 6-5 win.
The meeting marked the 8th time in 15 games this season that the Drillers have played a one-run game. With Friday's defeat, Tulsa now has a 3-5 record in those contests.
Just like in their previous three games, the Drillers took an early 1-0 lead. With two outs in the bottom of the second inning, Harold Riggins deposited an offering from J.C. Sulbaran into the Budweiser Terrace in left field for his second home run of the season. Both homers for Riggins have come during the current homestand.
The Naturals offense erased the lead with a three-run third. The inning began when Brian Bocock reached on a two-base throwing error by third baseman Jayson Langfels. After Drillers starting pitcher Richard Castillo hit a batter, Cheslor Cuthbert scored Bocock with a base hit. Later in the inning, ORU product Jared Schlehuber added a run-scoring single, as did Whit Merrifield.
Northwest Arkansas added two more runs in the fourth. With one out, Bocock doubled and scored on a base hit by Lane Adams. After Adams stole second base, Jorge Bonifacio brought him home with another hit that made it 5-1.
The Drillers four-run seventh came with help from the Naturals. Reliever Noel Arguelles came on for Sulbaran and retired the first batter he faced before Langfels reached on an infield single. Jared Simon and Delta Cleary Jr. followed with base hits that scored Langfels to cut the deficit to three runs.
After Arguelles walked Taylor Featherston to load the bases, he then uncorked a pair of wild pitches that allowed Simon and Cleary Jr. to score and make it 5-4. Arguelles' short night ended with a walk to Cristhian Adames.
Malcom Culver relieved and promptly delivered the third wild pitch of the inning, allowing Featherston to race home with the tying run.
It did not take the Naturals long to break the deadlock as they responded with a run in their next at-bat. Parker Morin opened the top of the eighth with a base hit off Kraig Sitton. Bocock then laid down a sacrifice bunt that Langels fielded, but his throw to first was in the dirt, resulting in his fourth error of the night. Sitton retired the next two batters, but Cuthbert delivered a clutch two-out hit that scored Morin with the go-ahead run.
Northwest Arkansas would not relinquish the lead a second time. Culver worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and Hassan Pena pitched around a two-out walk to Featherston in the ninth to close the game.
Culver was credited with the win to even his record at 1-1, while Sitton (0-1) was charged with the loss, his first decision of the season. The save for Pena was his first.
Castillo, who entered the start with a 2.25 ERA, allowed five runs and eight hits in five innings, but only three of his allowed runs were earned.
Sulbaran, who was acquired by Kansas City last season in the trade that sent Jonathan Broxton to the Reds, pitched well enough to record a victory, but received a no decision. The lefthander surrendered only five hits and one run in six innings of work.
Cuthbert paced a 12-hit Naturals attack with three hits and two runs batted in. Tulsa managed eight hits with the production spread through the lineup. Eight of the Drillers nine starters collected one hit each, with Riggins' homer the only extra-base hit.
Tulsa will conclude its series with the Naturals and its four-game homestand Saturday evening. Eddie Butler (0-1, 2.41 ERA) will pitch the finale for the Drillers, while Northwest Arkansas has yet to announce a starting pitcher. Starting time is slated for 7:05PM at ONEOK Field.