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Drillers Cough Up Early Lead, Fall To Naturals

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

Looking for their second straight victory, the Tulsa Drillers jumped to an early three-run lead against Northwest Arkansas Friday night at ONEOK Field. The Drillers scored a pair of first-inning runs and another in the fourth and seemed on their way to a win, but the Naturals had other ideas. Northwest scored four unanswered runs and rallied for a 4-3 come-from-behind victory.

A paid crowd of over 8,000 watched the action in downtown Tulsa, increasing the Drillers franchise record number of sellouts this season to 16.

The Drillers got off to a fast start against Northwest Arkansas starter Christian Binford, who is considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Kansas City Royals farm system. In the bottom of the first, Chris O'Dowd led off with a double, and Delta Cleary Jr. followed with a single. Taylor Featherston made it three straight hits with an infield single that scored O'Dowd with the game's first run.

Shortly thereafter, Binford threw wildly on a pickoff attempt to first. The error allowed Cleary Jr. to race home to give Tulsa an early 2-0 lead. On the play, the errant throw struck first base umpire Brett Terry on the lower leg. After the completion of the inning, Terry left the game. The remainder of the game was played with a two-man umpiring crew.

The Drillers lead swelled to three runs when Trevor Story opened the fourth inning with his third Double-A homer.

It would prove to be Tulsa's final offensive output of the night, as Northwest Arkansas would score the game's final four runs.

Drillers' starting pitcher Richard Castillo was perfect through the first four innings, retiring all 12 batters he faced, before Northwest Arkansas cleanup hitter Orlando Calixte led off the fifth with his ninth home run to trim the Drillers' lead to 3-1.

Castillo ran into more difficulties in the top of the sixth. Mark Threlkeld led off with a base hit and Parker Morin drew a walk. Angel Franco moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Threlkeld scored when Castillo uncorked a wild pitch, and Moran came home with the tying run on a base-hit from Cheslor Cuthbert.

The Naturals would move in front with another run in the eighth inning. Franco led off with a base hit against reliever Kraig Sitton. Following a sacrifice bunt from Ethan Chapman, Cuthbert drew a walk to put runners at first and second. Calixte struck again, producing what proved to be the game-winning hit. The shortstop lined a base hit into centerfield, scoring Franco to give Northwest Arkansas a 4-3 lead.

Umpire Terry was not the only casualty in the game. Drillers' catcher Will Swanner was struck on the mask by a foul tip in the top of the third inning and did not return to his position in the fourth. He was replaced behind the plate by Ryan Casteel.

Sitton allowed only the one run in two innings, but he was charged with the loss, dropping his record to 3-6.

Binford, who recently pitched in the Futures Game at Target Field, settled in after the tough start and worked six innings and allowed the three runs on five hits.

Reliever Sam Selman worked a scoreless seventh inning to pick up the win, and Andrew Triggs pitched around a walk and a hit in the ninth to collect the save.

The game took 3:02 to complete, marking the eighth straight game of 3-plus hours for the Drillers.

Tulsa and Northwest Arkansas will play the third game of their four-game set Saturday night at ONEOK Field. Jon Gray (9-5, 3.94 ERA) will take the mound for the Drillers against Tim Melville (1-9, 5.05 ERA) of the Naturals. Starting time is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.  

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