TULSA, Okla. -- Amarillo had squandered its share of opportunities but wasn't about to let another one pass them by with the Texas League championship on the line.After loading the bases with nobody out in the fifth inning and coming away empty, then loading them again and scoring just once
TULSA, Okla. -- Amarillo had squandered its share of opportunities but wasn't about to let another one pass them by with the Texas League championship on the line.
After loading the bases with nobody out in the fifth inning and coming away empty, then loading them again and scoring just once in the eighth, the Sod Poodles had one more chance in the ninth.
Taylor Trammell responded by drilling a 2-2 pitch over the wall in right field for a grand slam, sparking a seven-run outburst, as Amarillo captured the Texas League championship with an 8-3 victory over Tulsa in the decisive fifth game of the Finals on Sunday afternoon at ONEOK Field.
Trammell, who grounded into a fielder's choice with the bases loaded in the fifth, was determined to come through for his team in the ninth against reliever Nolan Long.
"I couldn't get it done in the fifth inning, I was pretty upset with myself," said Trammell, MLB.com's No. 27 overall prospect. "I just wanted to battle my tail off. That was my fourth time facing [Long] -- he's walked me one time and he struck me out and struck me out, so I had to be dialed in. I know what he's got, I know he's a really good pitcher. I just got a really good pitch."
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Five batters and one pitching change after Trammell's heroics, 11th-ranked Padres prospect Hudson Potts boomed another homer deep to left field to tack on three runs for Amarillo.
"I'm just overwhelmed right now, I'm so happy," said Trammell, who was acquired from the Reds at the July 31 Trade Deadline. "I can't say enough about this team. This is awesome for me because I've been in pro ball for three years, for four seasons, and out of those four seasons, I've been there three times, I've come in second twice and the last inning, I was like, 'I'm not losing another one.' That's pretty much what was going through my mind."
It's the expansion franchise's first Texas League title but also served as a bit of revenge for some of the players who lost to the Drillers in last year's Championship Series as the San Antonio Missions. It also marked the second consecutive series in which the Soddies overcame a deficit. In the South Division Finals, they lost the first two games to Midland before winning three in the row; and they trailed Tulsa, 2-1, before winning Game 4, 3-0, on Saturday night.
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"We had the fifth with the bases loaded and no outs and we didn't come through there, but we put ourselves in position to have a chance," said Amarillo skipper Phillip Wellman, who managed San Antonio last year. "This team has been like that all year -- very resilient and they never die, they keep fighting. We play in a ballpark in Amarillo, when the opposition has a five-run lead, it's not a big lead. We learn, playing in that ballpark, not to give up until the final out. We have had many come-from-behind wins this year.
"There's a helluva lot easier ways to do it, but we got it done."
After Dodgers No. 6 prospectJeter Downs blasted a two-run homer -- his fourth of the postseason -- in the seventh, the Drillers had a 3-0 lead and seemed to be in control, but their bullpen struggled in the final two innings.
One hit batter and two walks in the eighth produced one run, as reliever Shea Spitzbarth walked Luis Torrens with the bases loaded. In the ninth, Long took the mound and promptly walked the first two batters on eight pitches before giving up a bunt single to Peter Van Gansen to load the bases and set the stage for Trammell's slam.
"Just shock," Tulsa manager Scott Hennessey said afterwards. "You battle all year, get down to the ninth inning and feel good with Nolan Long going out there, and it just wasn't his day. Yeah, we're disappointed, but they battled and that's just all we could do. We just didn't get it done; we're one inning short."
Long (0-2) took the loss, while Evan Miller (1-0) struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth for the win. Travis Radke worked a perfect ninth, striking out Drew Avans looking to end the contest.
Tulsa, in the Finals for the third year in a row after becoming the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate, lost for the second time on its home field after winning the title last year in San Antonio. The Drillers are 3-5 at ONEOK Field in the Championship Series during that span.
John Tranchina is a contributor to MiLB.com.