The Tulsa Drillers entered Monday night's game at ONEOK Field needing a win against the Springfield Cardinals to have a chance to finish in a three-way tie at the top of the division. But Springfield had other plans and played the role of spoiler, as Tulsa was unable to rally at the end of the game and were defeated 3-2.
With a win, the Drillers could have finished in a three-way tie for first place in Texas League's North Division as Northwest Arkansas held on for an 11-10 win over Arkansas. The winner of the game Tuesday night between those two teams will now determine the first-half champion.
Michael Johnson got the start on the mound for Tulsa in Monday's must-win game, and the Cardinals scored a first inning run against the lefthander. After Johnson hit the game's leadoff batter, two groundouts advanced the runner to third. Evan Mendoza brought home the first run of the game with an RBI single to put the Cardinals up 1-0.
Johnson worked through the third inning and was very effective, retiring the final six batters that he faced.
The Drillers evened things up in the bottom of the third. After D.J. Peters led the inning off by getting hit by a pitch, starting pitcher Logan Bawcom made his second pinch-hit appearance in as many games. Bawcom did what he was assigned to do and laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Peters to second. Errol Robinson then delivered an RBI single up the middle to tie the game at 1-1.
An inning later, Luke Raley led the bottom of the fourth off with a walk. Yusniel Diaz followed by roping a double down the left field line, plating Raley from first base to give Tulsa a 2-1 lead.
Andrew Istler came out of the Drillers bullpen to replace Johnson in the fourth inning, and kept the Cardinal bats at bay for three fantastic innings of work. He ran into some trouble in the seventh by giving up two singles, putting runners at first and third. Corey Copping came out of the pen and immediately allowed a game-tying single, then gave up a walk to load the bases. Copping then issued his second consecutive free-pass to force home a run and put the Cards on top 3-2.
The Drillers had a chance to get even in the eighth as Connor Joe led eighth off with a double, but a strikeout and a pair of fly outs left him stranded.
With one last chance in the ninth, Springfield brought in Yeison Medina for the save opportunity. He retired the Drillers in order, preserving the 3-2 Cardinals win and eliminating Tulsa from its first-half title hopes.
WHAT YOU MISSED
*After his RBI double in the third inning, Diaz extended his hitting streak to four games, which is currently the longest on the team.
*Brian Moran provided two scoreless innings out of the Drillers bullpen and struck out two.
*Johnson was forced into the starting role after scheduled starter Justin De Fratus was assigned to Triple A.
*In the Texas League South Division, the Corpus Christi Hooks defeated the San Antonio Missions to lock up the first-half title.
The Drillers will begin the second half of the season on Tuesday night as they continue their seriew against the Springfield Cardinals. First pitch at ONEOK Field is scheduled for 7:05 PM, and the probable starting pitchers will be:
TUL Andrew Sopko (2-0, 2.13 ERA)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.