Facing a near, must-win situation in the second game of a doubleheader Thursday evening, the Tulsa Drillers neither won nor lost. One out away from securing an important victory, the Drillers saw the Northwest Arkansas Naturals rally with the tying run. With the score tied at 2-2, Tulsa could not produce a winning run in its final at-bat, forcing extra innings, but Mother Nature had other ideas. Before the extra innings could begin, heavy rains moved over ONEOK Field, forcing a rain delay. After a 40-minute delay, the game was suspended by the umpires, setting up a Friday finish for the game that will play a critical role in the North Division Texas League pennant race.
The game will continue Friday at 5:00PM, picking up in the top of the eighth inning. Since it began as the second game of a doubleheader, the game will be considered in extra innings. The original game scheduled for Friday will begin at the regular time of 7:05PM. The homeplate gate at ONEOK Field will open at 4:45PM for the suspended game. All other gates will open at their normal time at 6:00PM.
With their pennant hopes on the line in Thursday's second game, the Drillers started quickly. Leadoff batter Tim Locastro was hit by a pitch to open the first inning, and Matt Beaty followed with a double to put runners at second and third. Quincy Latimore plated Locastro with a ground out, and Edwin Rios brought Beaty home with a base hit to give Tulsa a 2-0 lead.
The Naturals only offensive output against Tulsa starting pitcher David Hale came in the fourth inning when Samir Duenez doubled and scored on a base hit by Zach Walters.
The damage could have been worse, but Latimore took a likely two-run homer away from Donald Dewees Jr. by reaching above the right field fence to catch his deep drive.
The Naturals plated a second run in the top of the seventh. With one out, Nick Dini reached safely on an infield hit and advanced to second on a ground out. Down to their final out, the Naturals stayed alive when Jack Lopez singled sharply off the glove of Rios at third. The ball deflected to shortstop Zach McKinstry as Dini never slowed down while rounding third. McKinstry's throw to the plate was in time to retire Dini and end the game, but the throw ricocheted out of catcher Wynston Sawyer's glove. The error allowed Dini to slide in safely with the tying run.
The Drillers made a bid to win the game in the bottom of the seventh as Sawyer led off with a double. Eventually, there were runners at first and third with only one out. Pinch-hitter Erick Mejia hit a broken-bat grounder that third baseman Walters temporarily bobbled, but he quickly recovered and threw to second for the force out, and second baseman Lopez fired a relay to first to retire Mejia by a half-step to end the inning and keep Sawyer from recording the winning run.
In the first game, the Drillers spotted Northwest Arkansas a two-run lead before rallying to tie the game, only to watch the Naturals score twice in their final at-bat to post a 4-2 win.
Tulsa starting pitcher Walker Buehler opened with two shutout innings before Northwest plated a pair of runs in the third. Parker Morin doubled and scored on a base hit by Lopez to open the scoring. Lopez eventually scored an infield ground out to plate the second run.
The Drillers evened the score in the bottom of the fifth. A two-out base hit by Latimore scored Paul Hoenecke and Locastro who had both singled.
The game remained tied until the Naturals pushed across the go-ahead runs in the top of the seventh. With one out, Donald Dewees Jr. beat out an infield hit against reliever Shea Spitzbarth. Dini followed with a base hit to centerfield that skipped under the glove of Brayan Morales, allowing Dewees Jr. to score all the way from first base to put Northwest Arkansas in front. Lopez added an insurance run with a two-out hit that scored Dini to make it 4-2.
Pedro Fernandez set Tulsa down in order in the bottom of the seventh to complete the first game.
Buehler matched his longest outing since joining the Drillers, working five innings. He surrendered two runs on five hits, while walking one batter and striking out five and was not involved in the decision.
With the game one victory, the first-place Naturals increased their lead over the Drillers to two games in the North Division standings. With only five games remaining in the half, Tulsa will hope for a victory in at least one of Friday's games to keep its pennant hopes alive.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.