TULSA - Looking to book a spot in the Texas League Championship Series with a victory, the Tulsa Drillers were left disappointed Saturday night by a power display from the Arkansas Travelers. The Travs hit three home runs and defeated the Drillers 4-1 at ONEOK Field.
The good news for the Drillers is they will have one more opportunity to punch their championship series ticket. The loss to the Travelers evened the best-of-five North Division Playoff Series at two games apiece and forces a winner-take-all Game 5 Sunday afternoon in downtown Tulsa. It will mark the third straight year that the Drillers will play in a division series Game 5. They won the final game the previous two seasons.
The Drillers had won the two previous games in the series to take the upper hand and hoped to carry that momentum into Saturday' matchup. The two teams were scoreless through the first four innings before Logan Taylor put the Travelers on top in the fifth. With one out and the bases empty, Taylor hit a drive off starting pitcher Parker Curry that just cleared the four-foot high fence in right-center field. The solo homer gave Arkansas a 1-0 lead.
The Drillers ended the Travs shutout bid and tied the game in the bottom of the sixth. After a walk and a failed bunt attempt, Jeter Downs was at first with one out. Downs moved to second on a ground out by Omar Estevez, then scored on a two-out base hit from Chris Parmelee. It was the first hit of the series for Parmelee.
Arkansas wasted little time in going back in front. Kyle Lewis hit the first pitch of the seventh inning onto the right field concourse for the Travelers second solo homer of the night, giving the Travs a 2-1 lead.
The third Arkansas homer came in the eighth inning. Luis Liberato led off with a base hit off Tulsa reliever Michael Boyle. After Donnie Walton lined out to center, Jordan Sheffield replaced Boyle. Sheffield's second pitch was deposited onto the grass berm beyond the right field fence by Evan White for a two-run homer that upped the Travs lead to 4-1.
It was a case of missed late opportunities for the Drillers. After leaving the bases full in the seventh inning, they stranded two more runners in the eighth and could not capitalize on a leadoff walk in the ninth.
The homers were a welcome change for the Travelers. In the first two games of the series, they had a total of only two extra-base hits.
WHAT YOU MISSED
*Curry pitched well for Tulsa despite being tagged with the loss. The right-hander allowed just two runs on five hits, but was undone by the two homers.
*Arkansas centerfielder Liberato made two running catches in the right-center gap to take extra-base hits away from the Drillers. On one, Cody Thomas came up just a few feet short of his first home run of the series.
*Travs relievers Sam Delaplane and Art Warren combined to get the final eight outs, holding the Drillers without a hit. Delaplane got five outs with four of them coming on strikeouts.
*While Tulsa failed to capitalize on its scoring opportunities, stranding nine runners on base, Arkansas had only two at-bats in the game with runners in scoring position. The Travs were hitless in both and are now 1-24 in the series with runners in scoring position.
*Temperature at the start of the game was 93 degrees. All four games have begun with a temperature of 92 degrees or higher.
*There will also be a Game 5 in the in the South Division Series on Sunday. After dropping the first two games of the series at home, Amarillo has won two in a row in Midland to force the decisive final game with the RockHounds.
UP NEXT: Game 5 of the North Division Playoff Series
Arkansas at Tulsa, Sunday, September 8, at 1:05 PM at ONEOK FIELD. RHP Edwin Uceta (7-2, 3.21 ERA) versus TBA.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.