For 8 2/3 innings Monday night, the Tulsa Drillers offensive struggles continued in North Little Rock. Trailing the Arkansas Travelers 2-0, the Drillers appeared headed to another frustrating offensive night and their fifth straight loss. That all changed with one swing of the bat from catcher Lars Davis. With two outs in the top of the ninth inning and runners at first and second, Davis turned an apparent defeat into an unlikely 3-2 win by belting his fourth home run of the season.
The three runs matched the Drillers total during the first 35 innings of the series. They entered the key ninth inning being blanked on only four hits. Prior to the three-run ninth, Tulsa had been held to only 16 hits and 3 runs in the series by Arkansas pitchers.
The game-winning rally began with one out and the bases empty when Ben Paulsen singled off Travs closer Kevin Johnson. Johnson entered the game with a 0.84 ERA and 12 saves, with 2 coming earlier in the series.
Kent Matthes kept Tulsa hopes alive with another base hit, but Jimmy Cesario struck out, bringing Davis to the plate. After taking the first pitch for a ball, Davis deposited the next pitch from Johnson over the right-centerfield fence for a three-run homer.
Joe Gardner made sure the 3-2 lead held by working a scoreless bottom of the ninth. Gardner, making only the third relief appearance of his career, pitched around a one-out hit batter to record his first professional save.
The big rally overshadowed a strong outing from Drillers starting pitcher Dan Houston. Houston surrendered only 1 run on 7 hits in 6 1/3 innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out 4.
The lone run against Houston scored in the bottom of the seventh inning. With one out and the bases empty, Brian Hernandez singled and Jimmy Swift followed with a double. With the infield playing in, Alberto Rosario bounced a single into centerfield that plated Hernandez. After Houston hit Darwin Perez with a pitch to load the bases, reliever Tim Sexton was summoned from the bullpen. Sexton ended the threat by getting an inning-ending double play off the bat of Travis Witherspoon.
The Travelers added another run in the bottom of the eighth off reliever Joey Williamson. Renny Osuna led off with a single and swiped second base. Two wild pitches from Williamson allowed Osuna to score the second run of the game.
Williamson was removed without retiring a batter. Joe Torres took over and recorded three outs to receive the victory, thanks to the heroics of Davis.
The news was not all good for the Drillers. In the top of the eighth inning, Corey Dickerson was hit in the batting helmet on a pitch from Ryan Chaffee. The ball appeared to deflect off his helmet and strike Dickerson in the face. After several minutes of treatment, he was escorted from the field by trainer Austin O'Shea with a towel covering his face. There was no immediate word on the outfielder's condition following the game.
The Drillers road trip will continue Tuesday night with the first game of a three-game series in Northwest Arkansas. The pitching matchup will feature Tyler Chatwood (0-0, 1.38 ERA) of the Drillers and Mike Montgomery (1-1, 5.84 ERA) for the Naturals. First pitch in Springdale is scheduled for 7:00PM.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.