AMARILLO, TX - The Tulsa Drillers opened play Tuesday night in their third straight Texas League Championship Series with the goal of winning back-to-back titles for the first time in franchise history. But, Amarillo gave every indication that it would not be easy. Playing at home, Amarillo broke open a tie game by scoring seven times in the eighth inning and posted a 13-6 win at HODGETOWN in Game 1 of the best-of-five series.
Amarillo had 17 hits in the win, matching the most that Tulsa pitchers have surrendered in a game this season. The Drillers also committed two errors in the game, leading to six unearned runs.
Amarillo jumped in front with a three-run third inning. It began with a leadoff home run from Buddy Reed. Later in the third, Taylor Trammell singled with one out. With Trammell running, Ivan Castillo followed with a base hit to right-center field. When centerfielder Cody Thomas bobbled the hit, Trammell kept running and scored all the way from first for the second run of the inning. With two outs and Castillo at second, Owen Miller hit a grounder to first that should have been the final out of the inning, but pitcher JoJo Gray dropped the throw from first baseman Chris Parmelee, to give Amarillo its third run.
Thomas got one of the runs back in the fourth. His two-out home run made it 3-1.
Amarillo answered with two more runs in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Kyle Overstreet doubled and Reed walked. Starting pitcher Lake Bacher advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, but not before he was hit on the finger while fouling an earlier pitch off. He continued with the at-bat and successfully bunted over the runners to set up a two-run base hit from Trammell that upped the lead to 5-1.
Bachar was apparently injured on the foul ball that deflected off his finger, as Emmanuel Ramirez came on to open the fifth, and the Drillers used a pair of long balls off Ramirez to cut into their deficit. Omar Estevez belted a solo homer in the fifth, and Donovan Casey did the same in the seventh, trimming Tulsa's deficit to 5-3.
Amarillo added another run in the bottom of the seventh, but the Drillers' bats were not done. Jeter Downs opened the top of the eighth with a base hit off reliever Sam Williams, and Chris Parmelee drew a walk. Elliot Ashbeck came on for Williams and was greeted by a drive off the bat of Connor Wong. The blast easily cleared the left field fence for a three-run homer that tied the game at 6-6.
The euphoria for the Drillers did not last long. Reliever Ryan Moseley's first pitch in the bottom of the eighth was lined into centerfield for a double by Reed. That set the stage for the key play of the game when Taylor Kohlwey hit a soft grounder directly to the second base bag. Reed had wandered off the base and would have likely been tagged out, but shortstop Downs misplayed the grounder for an error. Instead of one out and a runner at first, there were two runners on with no outs.
A sacrifice bunt and an intentionally walk loaded the bases for Edward Olivares, and he cleared them with a three-run double that put Amarillo back on top.
The inning was far from over. A wild pitch brought home another run, and Brad Zunica plated two more with a double. Reed, who started the inning, capped it with a run-scoring double that upped the lead to 13-6.
WHAT YOU MISSED
*Five of Amarillo's seven runs in the pivotal eighth inning were unearned. Overall, 6 of its 13 runs were unearned.
*Amarillo used five pitchers in the game, while Tulsa used four.
*The Drillers are not in an unfamiliar situation. They lost the first game of the North Division Series against Arkansas but rallied to win three of the last four and claim the series.
*The four homers broke a mini power slump for the Drillers. They hit only one in the five-game division series.
*Bachar was batting, as were all pitchers, because this series involves two National League affiliates, so the designated hitter will not being used.
*Amarillo is listing TBA for a starting pitcher for Wednesday's Game 2, but reports from San Diego have been saying that big league right-hander Jacob Nix will make the start. Nix, who is recovering from a UCL injury, started Game 2 of the South Division Series. He is officially on the San Diego Padres major league roster but would be making an allowable injury rehab start.
UP NEXT: Game 2 Texas League Championship Series
Tulsa at Amarillo, Wednesday, September 11, at 7:05 PM at HODGETOWN. LHP Leo Crawford (1-0, 4.80 ERA) versus TBA.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.