TULSA - The Tulsa Drillers have moved within one win of a third straight trip to the Texas League Championship Series. Friday night at ONEOK Field, Cody Thomas drove in three runs and Markus Solbach turned in a strong start on the mound as the Drillers defeated Arkansas 6-1. The victory gives Tulsa a two games to one lead in the best-of-five North Division Playoff Series.
The six runs were the biggest offensive output of the series as the two teams had combined for only seven runs in the first two games. Tulsa pitchers have now limited Arkansas to just three total runs in the three games.
The Drillers took the lead in the second inning on Friday, marking the 13th straight time that the Drillers have scored the first run of a game. After Connor Wong and Cristian Santana opened the second with consecutive singles, Thomas made it three straight hits when he lined another single into left-center field, scoring Wong to give the Drillers a 1-0 lead. It was the first hit of the series for Thomas, but it would not take him long to get a second.
As they had done in the first two games of the series, Arkansas responded to tie the game at 1-1. After Solbach worked four scoreless innings to open the game, he ran into trouble in the top of the fifth. Dom Thompson-Williams led off with a base hit, and Nick Ahmed followed with another one. After a sacrifice bunt and a walk, the bases were loaded. Solbach retired Jarred Kelenic on a shallow fly ball to left, but Solbach hit Evan White with a pitch to force home the tying run. The Tulsa starter escaped further trouble when he retired Cal Raleigh on a pop up to end the inning.
The Drillers went back in front in the bottom of the fifth against Arkansas side-arming, reliever Jack Anderson. Omar Estevez led off and reached safely on an error when third baseman Ahmed could not field his slow chopper. After a pop out, Anderson walked the next two batters to load the bases and again set the table for Thomas. The former University of Oklahoma quarterback doubled off the top of the left-centerfield fence, scoring two runs. Donovan Casey followed with a sacrifice fly to plate another run and up the Drillers lead to 4-1.
Tulsa added to the margin in the sixth when catcher Jordan Procyshen led off with a single and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly from Connor Wong that made it 5-1.
Consecutive doubles from Jeter Downs and Estevez in the bottom of the eighth produced a sixth and final run for the Drillers.
Solbach protected the lead through 5 1/3 innings, holding the Travs to just the one run on six hits.
Reliever Michael Boyle and Shea Spitzbarth took over from there. Boyle allowed just one hit in 1 2/3 innings, while Spitzbarth gave up two hits in two shutout innings while striking out three. It was the first appearance of the series for both hurlers.
WHAT YOU MISSED
*The Drillers can advance to the TLCS with a win in either Saturday's Game 4 or Sunday's Game 5. Both games, if necessary, will be played at ONEOK Field.
*The Drillers played an errorless game for the first time in the series.
*The eighth-inning double from Downs allowed him to extend his hitting streak to 11 straight games, including the three playoff contests.
*Arkansas had a series high nine hits but were limited to just one run for the third straight game. Travs' hitters have gone just 1-22 with runners in scoring position during the series.
*In the South Division Series, Amarillo kept its season alive with a 6-2 win in Midland on Friday. The RockHounds had won the first two games of the series in Amarillo and still hold a two games to one lead.
UP NEXT: Game 4 of the North Division Playoff Series
Arkansas at Tulsa, Saturday, September 7, at 7:05 PM at ONEOK FIELD. RHP Parker Curry (4-5, 3.67 ERA) versus RHP Ljay Newsome (3-4, 2.77 ERA).
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.