Corpus Christi, TX - Heading into the ninth inning of Wednesday night's ballgame, the Tulsa Drillers seemed destined for their 13th win in their last 16 games as they took a 7-4 lead to the last of the ninth. But the Corpus Christi Hooks had other ideas as they rallied with six hits and six runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, capped by a walk-off grand slam from Jason Martin, as the Drillers fell to the Hooks 10-7.
The late meltdown by the Tulsa bullpen overshadowed a solid effort from Drillers starter Andrew Sopko as the Tulsa right-hander finished the night allowing four runs over seven innings, striking out five while walking none.
Ryne Birk began the fateful bottom of the ninth for Corpus Christi with a base hit off Michael Johnson, prompting Tulsa manager Scott Hennessey to call on Shea Spitzbarth to close out the ballgame. Spitzbarth entered the game having not allowed an earned run over his last ten appearances. But that streak would come to an end Wednesday night.
Spitzbarth gave up a single to Dexture McCall before striking out Arturo Michelena for the first out of the inning. But he then allowed back-to-back singles that brought the Hooks to within 7-5. A sacrifice fly later, the score was 7-6 Tulsa with runners on first and second with two outs. Jamie Ritchie then hit a slow roller that got past Spitzbarth for an infield single to load the bases. Martin then stepped up for the Hooks and, after going down 0-2 in the count, launched a hanging breaking ball from Spitzbarth over the left field fence to end the ballgame. The homer was Martin's tenth of the season.
With the loss, the Drillers fell to a game behind the Springfield Cardinals for the top spot in the Texas League North Division. Spitzbarth saw his record drop to 2-4 with the defeat while Hooks reliever Ryan Thompson picked up the win to even his record at 2-2.
Wednesday's game began with both clubs getting on the board in the second inning. Tulsa took the early lead when an RBI single by Johan Mieses drove home Erick Mejia with the first run of the game. But Corpus Christi quickly tied the contest in the home half of the frame when Rico Noel hit a solo home run off Drillers starter Andrew Sopko.
The score would hold there until the fifth inning when the Drillers would pull ahead once again.
Drew Jackson got things started with a base hit and a stolen base before moving to third on a single off the bat of Errol Robinson. He then came home to score thanks to a sacrifice fly by Kyle Garlick. Peter O'Brien and Yusniel Diaz then each smacked RBI doubles to put the Drillers up 4-1.
The Hooks got one of the runs back in the bottom of the frame, thanks to another solo homer, this one by McCall. But they were largely kept off-balance by Sopko.
Outside of the two solo home runs he surrendered in the second and fifth innings, Sopko was dealing for Tulsa as he allowed just three singles going into the seventh inning. But after retiring the first batter in the frame, Sopko gave up a single to McCall followed by a two-run homer to Corpus Christi third baseman Michelena that tied the ballgame at 4-4.
Sopko was able to retire the next two batters however, to keep the game knotted up. And his teammates would answer quickly in response.
After Hooks reliever Cy Sneed struck out Jacob Scavuzzo to start the top of the eighth, Yusniel Diaz reached base on a one-out walk. Erick Mejia then singled to right field and Sneed issued another walk to Johan Mieses to load the bases. Garrett Kennedy then delivered the hit of the night as he lined a sharp ground ball down the right field line for a bases-clearing triple that put the Drillers back in front 7-4.
That would be the tally before the fateful ninth inning.
The Drillers will aim to bounce back and earn the series win against the Hooks Thursday night. RHP Mitchell White (0-0, 2.25 ERA) will toe the rubber for Tulsa while RHP Franklin Perez (1-1, 4.24 ERA) will oppose him for Corpus Christi. First pitch from Whataburger 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.