Midland, Texas - After taking a 1-0 advantage in the five-game Texas League Championship Series with a win Tuesday night, the Tulsa Drillers came into Wednesday's Game 2 against the Midland RockHounds knowing they would be in for a fight. Despite taking a 5-0 lead into the seventh inning, the Drillers had to survive a furious RockHounds comeback attempt before hanging on late on the road to defeat Midland 5-4.
With the win, the Drillers will now return to Tulsa with a commanding 2-0 series lead, needing just one more victory to claim their first Texas League title since 1998.
Facing a surprise Midland starter in right-hander Casey Meisner after scheduled starting pitcher Grant Holmes was scratched from the start just hours prior to first pitch, the Drillers threatened early.
In the first inning, Meisner retired the first two Tulsa batters before the Drillers loaded the bases on back-to-back hits from Matt Beaty and Kyle Garlick and a walk to Blake Gailen. But Meisner was able to escape the jam as he got Erick Mejia to line out sharply to right field to end the inning.
The Drillers threatened to score again in the second as Drew Jackson led off the frame with a triple. But he would be stranded there as Meisner struck out the next three Drillers to end that threat.
Meisner found himself in trouble yet again in the third after a pair of base hits by Yusniel Diaz and Blake Gailen put runners at the corners with two outs. But they would advance no farther as Gailen was picked off first by Meisner to keep Tulsa off the scoreboard.
That would all change in the fourth inning though as the Drillers offense broke through.
A single by Mejia followed by back-to-back doubles from Jackson and Peter O'Brien ended the scoreless affair, putting the Drillers in front 2-0. Following a flyout Midland brought in reliever Carlos Navas to try and hold Tulsa at bay. That plan would not work out however, as the Errol Robinson greeted Navas with a base hit to put runners on the corners. Although Navas was able to get Diaz to ground into a fielder's choice to retire O'Brien at the plate, he would not escape the inning unscathed as Beaty and Garlick followed with consecutive doubles to push the Tulsa advantage to 5-0.
Meanwhile, Tulsa starter Scott Barlow was dealing. Aiming to atone for his previous playoff start where he allowed six runs over five innings of work to the NW Arkansas Naturals, Barlow was on top his game Wednesday night.
Barlow faced the minimum number of RockHounds through the first four innings as the Drillers turned three double plays to erase base hits from Midland in the first, third and fourth innings. Following scoreless fifth and sixth innings of work, Barlow finally tired a bit in the seventh as he gave up a one-out double to Sheldon Neuse. Two batters later, Midland was on the board as a base hit from Tyler Ramirez plated Neuse to cut the Drillers lead to 5-1.
Things would get a bit nerve-racking for the Drillers in the eighth as the RockHounds took advantage of free bases to score three runs.
Karch Kowalczyk replaced Barlow to start the bottom of the eighth and immediately got into trouble by issuing a leadoff walk to Jorge Mateo and surrendering a base hit to Max Schrock. That would lead to a quick hook for Kowalczyk as Layne Somsen was brought in with two runners on and no outs.
After striking out Jermaine Curtis, Texas League RBI leader Viosergy Rosa lined a run-scoring hit to right to make the score 5-2. Somsen then ran into some bad luck as Neuse hit a line drive to centerfield that Gailen misread, scoring two runs and allowing Neuse to reach third base to pull Midland to within a run of the lead. But Somsen maintained his composure and was able to keep the Tulsa lead intact as he got a fielder's choice groundout and a strikeout around an intentional walk to end the inning.
Daniel Corcino came on for the ninth inning and worked around a leadoff single thanks to a double play and a strikeout to secure the Tulsa victory.
One night after seeing his 18-game hitting streak come to an end, Beaty led the Tulsa offense as he went 3-5 with a double, 2 RBIs and a run scored. Overall, the Drillers outhit the RockHounds 15-12 on the night.
Barlow was credited with the win for Tulsa while Meisner suffered the loss for Midland. Corcino earned his second save of the postseason for his work in the ninth.
Following an off day on Thursday for travel, the Drillers will aim to clinch the Texas League Championship title Friday night at ONEOK Field. Win or lose, there will be one final, fireworks display that will light up the sky immediately following the conclusion of the game. Neither Midland nor Tulsa has announced who will start the game on the mound. First pitch 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.