Drillers Playing For First TL Title Since 1998
TULSA, Oklahoma - The Tulsa Drillers are headed to the Texas League Championship Series.
The Drillers wrapped up the TL's North Division Championship Sunday night with a 6-1 victory over Northwest Arkansas at ONEOK Field, winning the hard-fought series three games to two.
The clinching win for Tulsa came courtesy of a dominant performance from starting pitcher Dennis Santana, who was staked to an early lead thanks to a two-run double from Peter O'Brien and a two-run homer from Erick Mejia.
The Drillers now have a matchup with the Midland RockHounds in the best-of-five Championship Series. The series will begin in Midland with Games 1 and 2 on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Game 3 will be played Friday night at ONEOK Field. Games 4 and 5, if necessary, will be played Saturday and Sunday nights in Tulsa.
For only the second time in the series, the Drillers scored first Sunday's series-deciding game. In the second, Kyle Garlick was hit by a pitch from Corey Ray to lead off the inning. After Blake Gailen popped out, Mejia doubled and Drew Jackson walked to load the bases. O'Brien, making his second straight start, lined a pitch from Ray into the left field corner, scoring Garlick and Mejia with the game's first two runs. Jackson was thrown out at the plate on the play.
Tulsa doubled its lead in the bottom of the fourth. As he did in the second, Garlick reached base to lead off the inning when he drew a walk from Ray. Gailen struck out, but Mejia followed with his first home run of the postseason to put the Drillers in front 4-0.
Santana made sure the lead held, working seven shutout innings. The 21-year-old right-hander scattered 3 hits while striking out 11 and walking only 1. The 11 strikeouts were a season high for a Tulsa hurler and the most since Jose De Leon struck out 11 on May 29, 2015.
Layne Somsen worked a 1-2-3 eighth in relief of Santana before the Naturals scored their only run when they opened the top of the ninth with three straight hits off Brian Moran. With the lead down to five runs and runners at second and third, Daniel Corcina retired three straight batters to close out the series win.
Tulsa plated its final two runs of the game in the bottom of the eighth. Three straight singles to open the inning by Yusniel Diaz, Matt Beaty and Garlick produced the first run. Mejia brought home the final run with a sacrifice fly.
Offensively, Mejia led the way for Tulsa with two hits, two runs scored and three RBIs. Garlick was 1-1 but reached base all four times he came to the plate.
The Drillers last appeared in the Texas League Championship Series in 2014, losing a five game series to Midland. The RockHounds will be looking for their fourth straight TL title.
Tulsa's last TL title occurred 19 years ago in 1998.
Tuesday's series opener will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Midland's Security Bank Ballpark. The game can be heard live in Tulsa on AM 1430 The Buzz with Dennis Higgins on the call. The broadcast will also be available through the iHeart mobile app.
Photo Courtesy Of the Tulsa Driller's Twitter Page