After splitting the first two games of their three-game set with the Midland RockHounds, the Tulsa Drillers came into Saturday's finale looking to secure the series victory. And although the Drillers offense was stymied for the first four innings, they broke through in a big way with a six-run fifth inning to lead the way to a 6-3 win over the Hounds at ONEOK Field.
Midland got on the board first with a run in the top of the second inning, but it could have been much more. With the bases loaded and one out, former Driller Jordan Tarsovich grounded into a fielder's choice to score Tyler Marincov and put runners at the corners with two outs. Brett Vertigan then lined a well-struck drive into the left-center field gap, but it was snagged by centerfielder Johan Mieses on the run to limit the damage to just a single run.
Tulsa starter Ivan Vieitez kept the Hounds off the board from there before handing the ball off to reliever Karch Kowalczyk to begin the fifth inning. But Kowalczyk ran into trouble right off the bat.
Richie Martin began the frame with a double and quickly moved to third on a wild pitch. Two pitches later, he came in to score on an RBI groundout by Tarsovich, putting the Hounds in front 2-0.
Midland threatened to extend the advantage in the inning as Vertigan doubled and Max Schrock reached on an infield single to put runners on the corners with one out. But Kowalczyk got J.P. Sportman to pop out to second before veteran southpaw reliever, Colt Hynes, came on and put out the fire by striking out Viosergy Rosa to keep Tulsa within striking distance.
Hounds starter Corey Walter came into the game with a career 1.93 ERA in his first three professional seasons and proved why Saturday night as he limited the Drillers to just two base hits over his four innings of work.
However, due to the Oakland Athletics piggy-back rotation policy where the starting pitcher only throws three or four innings before the next "starter" comes in, Walter exited after his four shutout frames.
Facing lefthander Brandon Mann, the Drillers immediately jumped on the new pitcher as they loaded the bases on a single by Wynston Sawyer, a ground-rule double by Paul Hoenecke and a walk from Stetson Allie sandwiched around a strikeout by Mieses. Mann seemed to be on the verge of escaping the jam though as he rallied to strike out Mike Ahmed for the second out of the frame.
But Mann seemed to temporarily lose control as he forced in a pair of runs by hitting Tim Locastro with a pitch followed by a four-pitch walk to Matt Beaty to tie the game up 2-2. Kyle Farmer then put the Drillers in front with a base hit into center to score a pair before Edwin Rios capped the inning with a bases-clearing double to put Tulsa on top 6-2.
Rios led the Drillers at the plate as he finished the night 3-4 with two doubles and two RBI's to cap a big series for the Florida Atlantic University product that saw him go 6-12 over the three-game set.
The Hounds scored a run in the top of the seventh to pull within 6-3, but that would be as close as they would get as Hynes was strong out of the pen with 3.1 innings of relief to improve his record on the season to 2-0.
Mann was saddled with the loss for Midland while Yaisel Sierra picked up his first save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning.
Following an off-day on Sunday to observe the Easter holiday, the Drillers will continue their opening homestand on Monday as they begin a three-game series against the Frisco RoughRiders. Heading to the hill for his first start of the season for Tulsa will be RHP Joshua Sborz (0-0, 0.00 ERA) while Frisco will send out RHP Collin Wiles (1-0, 3.00 ERA) to oppose him. First pitch for the inaugural Mega Money Monday of the season at ONEOK Field is scheduled for 7:05 PM.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.