'Hounds win fourth straight Texas League title

A's affiliate overcomes 2-0 deficit, blanks Tulsa in tense Game 5

The Midland RockHounds celebrate after winning their fourth straight Texas League championship. (Rich Crimi/Tulsa Drillers)

By Alex Kraft / MiLB.com | September 18, 2017 1:05 AM

The path was more difficult, but the ending was still the same for the Midland RockHounds.

A's No. 30 prospect James Naile allowed five hits over six innings on Sunday as the RockHounds edged Tulsa, 1-0, in the decisive fifth game of the Finals to win their fourth straight Texas League championship.

Video: RockHounds clinch Texas League title

Midland dropped the first two games of the best-of-5 series at home. Needing to win three straight on the road, manager Fran Riordan offered some simple advice to the team.

"Win today," he said. "There was really no looking forward to Game 4 or Game 5."

The RockHounds responded by taking Games 3 and 4 at ONEOK Field to force Sunday's showdown. The pitching staff led the comeback, holding the Drillers to three runs after surrendering 10 in the first two contests.

"The pitching was just off the charts," Riordan said. "So many guys made big pitches when it mattered."

Box score

Naile (1-1) turned in another strong start in the clincher. After giving up five runs on 10 hits and a pair of walks over six innings in Midland's Game 1 loss, the 24-year-old kept the Drillers off the board, despite working with at least one baserunner in five of his six frames.

"I saw heart, just an unbelievable mental toughness," Riordan said of Naile, who struck out six and walked two. "I've seen him with much better stuff and much better command, but the pitches that he made at the biggest spot in the season, the double plays he got, the strikeouts he got were just huge. It was a lot of fun to watch him compete like he did."

Complete playoff coverage

After Tyler Sturdevant, Joel Seddon and Brandon Mann combined to hold the Drillers scoreless in the seventh and eighth, Kyle Finnegan took over in the ninth. The right-hander appeared to end the game when he struck out Erick Mejia, but the ball kicked away from catcher Sean Murphy and allowed Mejia to reach first. Finnegan bounced back to get seventh-ranked Dodgers prospect Keibert Ruiz to ground out and set off the celebration.

Viosergy Rosa singled home A's No. 4 prospect Jorge Mateo in the first inning with the game's lone run. The RockHounds first baseman led all Minor Leaguers with 16 RBIs in 10 postseason games. Max Schrock, Oakland's 17th-ranked prospect, went 3-for-5 with a double.

Video: RockHounds' Rosa drives in a run

The RockHounds became the first team to win four straight Texas League titles since Fort Worth won six in a row from 1920-25.

"It was special for the guys and it was special for the staff," Riordan said. "You're down, 2-0, coming into Tulsa and all you're trying to do is survive for another day, and we did that three times in a row. For the guys to be a part of a fourth [consecutive] Texas League championship, what it says about the Oakland A's organization and the Midland RockHounds organization speaks volumes."

Texas League champions

Dodgers No. 12 prospect Dennis Santana (0-1) took the loss, despite yielding an unearned run on six hits and a walk with seven punchouts in six frames. No. 30 prospect and Texas League MVP Matt Beaty led the Drillers with three hits.

Alex Kraft is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and chat with him on Twitter @Alex_Kraft21. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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