AMARILLO, TX - Professional baseball has been played in Tulsa since 1905, before Oklahoma was a state. Of all the thousands of games that have previously been played, there has never been a game like the one between the Tulsa Drillers and the Amarillo Sod Poodles Wednesday night in Amarillo's HODGETOWN. In desperate need of a win to even the best-of-five Texas League Championship Series at one game each, the Drillers jumped to a big early lead with three runs in the top of the first inning, only to watch Amarillo score eight times in the bottom half of the first.
Undeterred, the Drillers answered Amarillo's big punch with one of their own, putting six runs on the scoreboard in the second inning to go back in front. At the end of a crazy night, the Drillers had hit a total of 9 home runs, breaking the all-time Tulsa Professional Baseball record, and had scored 18 runs. The result was an 18-9 victory over the Sod Poodles that evened the TLCS at one game apiece.
After a travel day on Thursday, the series will shift to Tulsa's ONEOK Field for Games 3 and 4 Friday and Saturday nights, and, if necessary, Game 5 on Sunday afternoon.
Three of the Drillers nine homers in Wednesday's crucial win came off the bat of shortstop Jeter Downs. The three homers in one game by a player ties the Tulsa all-time record and sets the all-time Tulsa playoff record.
The other big story of the night was the fantastic work of the Drillers bullpen. After the offense regained the lead in the top of the second, reliever Luis Vasquez did not allow a hit or a run over the next two innings. Lefty Michael Boyle followed and surrendered only a solo home run over three strong innings. Amarillo had only one hit from the second through the seventh inning.
Shea Spitzbarth replaced Boyle in the seventh. After striking out three while recording five outs, Spitzbarth surrendered a ground-rule double and a walk in the bottom of the eighth. Nolan Long relieved and got the final out of the inning on a ground ball to first baseman Chris Parmelee.
Long finished off the win by striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth.
The record-setting home run night for the Drillers got started right away. On the first pitch of the game, Downs gave the Drillers an instant lead on a lead-off homer to centerfield. Connor Wong promptly followed with a double, and advanced to third on a groundout. Cody Thomas knocked Wong in with a sacrifice fly before Donovan Casey crushed a ball deep over the wall in centerfield to give the Drillers a 3-0 lead.
The lead was short lived as Amarillo went on to score eight runs in the home half of the first inning. Drillers starting pitcher Leo Crawford was not his usual self. He surrendered three singles, a double, a triple and a sacrifice fly, and the Drillers committed an error, all leading to the Sod Poodles taking a fast 5-3 lead.
Vasquez relieved Crawford and inherited runners on first and third. Taylor Trammell instantly capped the monster inning with a three-run homer, giving Amarillo an 8-3 lead.
Tulsa came storming back in the top of the second. After three walks loaded the bases, Wong delivered a two-run double. Parmelee then blasted a ball to deep right-center field and onto the grass berm to cut the deficit to just one.
The inning did not stop there. Thomas followed Parmelee with a blast to right-center field for a solo home run, tying the game for Tulsa. Christian Santana then drew a four-pitch walk, and Estevez gave Tulsa a 9-8 lead with a run-scoring double. All six runs in the inning scored after there were two outs.
The Drillers did not trail again in the game.
In the third, an error and a single put a pair of runners on for Casey. On a 1-2 count, the Tulsa outfielder skied a ball deep over the left field wall, giving the Drillers a 12-8 lead.
Edward Olivares hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth for the Poodles, but the Drillers got that run right back in the visitor's half of the fifth. Just as he done to lead off the game, Downs hit the first pitch of the inning well over the left field wall, his second homer of the game and Tulsa's sixth.
In the top of the sixth inning, Carlos Rincon got in on the home run action by blasting a ball deep over the left field wall, extending the Drillers lead to 14-9.
The Drillers kept adding on. In the top of the eighth, Casey led off with a double, and a couple batters later, Estevez crushed the record-breaking eighth home run of the night for Tulsa. The two-run blast gave the Drillers a 16-9 lead.
Downs found himself leading off the top of the ninth, and he continued to punish Amarillo pitching. Downs added to the home run record with a blast well over the left field wall, his third of the game and the team's ninth.
The inning continued with a double by Wong. Thomas completed the huge offensive night with a run-scoring single, giving the Drillers an 18-9 lead.
WHAT YOU MISSED
*Downs had a record-setting night of his own, matching the Drillers single-game record with three homers. It marked the first time that a Tulsa player (Drillers or Oilers) has ever hit three home runs in a playoff game. Downs has hit a total of eight home runs in Double-A this season and all eight have come against Amarillo. He becomes the second Drillers player to hit three homers in a game this season, joining Cody Thomas who did it on April 17 against Springfield.
*The 18 runs and 18 hits in the game were both season highs for the Drillers.
*Downs, Wong and Casey each had four-hit games. Tulsa had only players get four hits in a game only seven times all season long.
*Downs scored a Drillers season-high five runs in the game.
*Wong and Casey have each hit in all seven games of the postseason. During those seven games, Wong is 9-27 (.333) with two homers and nine RBI, while Casey is 10-28 (.357) with three homers and six RBI.
*Boyle picked up his first win since July 1 against Springfield.
*Major leaguer Jacob Nix picked up the loss for Amarillo, allowing 9 earned runs over 1.2 innings. Nix was making an injury rehabilitation assignment for the San Diego Padres.
UP NEXT: Game 3 Texas League Championship Series
Amarillo at Tulsa, Friday, September 13, at 7:05 PM at ONEOK Field. RHP Kyle Lloyd (1-0, 2.35 ERA) vs. RHP Markus Solbach (1-0, 1.69 ERA).
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.