Springdale, AR - Scott Hennessey has been the manager of the Tulsa Drillers for just 42 games, but he will likely have to manage for many years to top what he witnessed Thursday night in Game 2 of the Texas League North Division Playoff Series. Hennessey watched his Drillers storm to what seemed an insurmountable 7-0 lead, only to see Northwest Arkansas rally to erase the margin and tie the score. That set the stage for Tulsa's Drew Jackson. Jackson saved not only the game, but quite likely the Drillers season with a grand slam home run in the top of the seventh inning to restore Tulsa's lead. Relievers Brian Moran and Daniel Corcino made sure this lead held as the Drillers evened the best-of-five series at one game apiece with an 11-7 victory.
The game was the complete opposite of Wednesday's pitching duel that was won 3-1 by the Naturals to open the series.
The offensive fireworks began early as the Drillers topped their entire output from the previous night in just the first inning. Errol Robinson opened the game with a leadoff single, and Yusniel Diaz followed with a double. Robinson came home with the game's first run on a ground out by Matt Beaty. A double from Kyle Garlick scored Diaz to put Tulsa in front 2-0.
The lead swelled to 6-0 when the Drillers plated four more runs in the top of the third. Garlick drew a leadoff walk and Blake Gailen drilled a two-run homer into the bullpen in right field. Later in the inning a two-run single by Robinson made it a six-run lead.
Beaty increased the margin to 7-0 when he led off the fifth with his first postseason homer.
Tulsa starting pitcher Scott Barlow breezed through the first three innings, but the Naturals comeback began in the bottom of the fourth. After a strikeout to open the inning, Barlow walked Mauricio Ramos and gave up a double to Anderson Miller. Nicky Lopez plated Ramos with a sacrifice fly before Nick Dini drilled a two-run homer to make it 7-3.
Northwest Arkansas produced three more runs in the fifth. Three straight singles to open the inning cut the Tulsa lead to three runs. An error by Beaty at first gave the Naturals another run and left runners at the corners. After a strikeout, Beaty fielded a ground ball off the bat of Miller. The first baseman elected to try to turn an inning-ending double play, but the relay to first was late, allowing another run to cross the plate to make it 7-6.
The Naturals completed their comeback with a run off reliever Corey Copping in the sixth. Dini and Humberto Arteaga had back-to-back singles to open the inning. Donnie Dewees followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Dini to erase the Tulsa lead and even the score at 7-7.
After seeing the big lead disappear, Hennessey had to be pleased with his team's immediate response. Garlick was hit by a pitch from reliever Yunior Marte to open the top of the seventh, and Gailen drew a walk. Erick Mejia bunted for a base a hit to load the bases and set the stage for Jackson. On a 3-1 count, the Tulsa second baseman just missed a home run when his drive hooked to the outside of the left field foul pole. Two pitches later, Jackson did not miss. His second drive was on the foul side of the pole, clearing the bases with the grand slam homer.
Given a second chance, Tulsa made sure this lead held. Moran was superb, working 2 2/3 scoreless innings behind Barlow and Copping. Corcino walked the first batter in the bottom of the ninth on four pitches, but he recovered to retire the next three batters to end the game and even the series at one game each. Moran was credited with the victory in the game that took 3:42 to complete.
The setting now switches to ONEOK Field for the rest of the series. Game three is scheduled for Friday night as Josh Sborz (8-8, 3.86 ERA) will take the mound for the Drillers against Emilio Ogando (10-10, 3.45 ERA) of the Naturals. Starting time is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. with a Fireworks Spectacular scheduled for after the game.
Game 4 and Game 5, if necessary, will also be played in Tulsa on Saturday (7:05 p.m.) and Sunday (6:05 p.m.) nights.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.