Things did not look favorable for Tulsa Sunday afternoon as the Drillers found themselves down 4-3 going into the ninth inning. But the Drillers exploded for a five-run inning to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Naturals, as they came from behind and then held on for an 8-6 victory over NW Arkansas.
The Drillers came into the game 0-11 when trailing entering their final at-bat this season. But that would change as the bottom of the Tulsa lineup capped off a strong Sunday performance.
Outfielder Jacob Scavuzzo got the comeback started for Tulsa in the ninth with a leadoff single, and was quickly moved into scoring position when Willie Calhoun executed a perfect sacrifice bunt. University of Oklahoma product Tyler Ogle came through yet again on the day as he capped off his best game as a Drillers with an RBI single into left field to tie the game. Brandon Trinkwon then worked a walk to bring an end to Naturals closer Eric Stout's day as the reliever was attempting a rare three inning save.
NW Arkansas brought in Benino Pruneda to try to slow the Tulsa offense, but to no avail. A Drew Maggi RBI single and a walk to Devon Ahart loaded the bases and put the Drillers up 5-4 as Alex Verdugo stepped to the plate. The 19-year-old slugger promptly put an exclamation point on the comeback as he lined a double into the left-center field gap to clear the bases and put Tulsa on top 8-4.
Those extra runs would prove critical as the Naturals attempted a comeback of their own in the bottom of the ninth, scoring twice and putting the tying runs on second and third with two outs. But veteran reliever Dale Thayer managed to hold on for the Drillers as he struck out Frank Schwindel for the final out to secure the 8-6 Tulsa victory.
Ogle, Trinkwon and Maggi finished the game a combined 6-10 with five RBI and five runs scored, as the bottom of the order trio provided the spark the Drillers needed to secure the victory.
The Naturals actually got on the board first Sunday as they manufactured a run in the second inning. Orlando Calixte led off the frame with a base hit before swiping second base for his ninth stolen base of the year. The speedster moved to third on a groundout to first base before coming home to score the game's first run on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Carlos Garcia.
The score held there for the next several innings as Tulsa and NW Arkansas starters Brock Stewart and Alec Mills traded zeros for their respective clubs. Both Stewart and Mills had to work around baserunners in the third and fourth innings before the Drillers finally broke through in the fifth.
Mills began the frame by striking out Calhoun before Ogle cracked a double down the left field line to begin his big day. Tulsa second baseman Trinkwon followed next and quickly brought Ogle home with an RBI single to tie things up at 1-1.
Trinkwon advanced to second on the play when NW Arkansas right fielder Calixte failed to cleanly field the ball. Mills then uncorked a wild pitch to move Trinkwon to third, allowing Maggi to plate his keystone partner with an RBI groundout and put Tulsa in front 2-1.
Stewart made that lead stand for the Drillers as the right-hander delivered his second quality start in as many appearances for Tulsa. The righty handed the ball off to the Drillers pen after going six innings while collecting five strikeouts.
After Tulsa added another run in the top of the seventh inning on an RBI double from Ogle, Ralston Cash came on looking to protect the two run lead.
Cash struggled however, as the reliever allowed three base hits and a double while also firing a wild pitch to turn the Drillers advantage into a 4-3 deficit. Grant Dayton came on at that point with one out and a man on second and put out the fire to keep the deficit at one.
The Naturals threatened to score again in the eighth inning when a bunt single, combined with a throwing error by Thayer, put the leadoff batter in scoring position with no one out. But Thayer managed to work his way out of the jam, sending the game into the decisive ninth inning.
The Drillers will now return home from Springdale, Arkansas as they will begin an eight game homestand Monday night. RHP Chris Anderson (1-1, 5.54 ERA) will get the start for Tulsa and will be opposed by RHP Victor Alcantara (1-1, 6.28 ERA) for the Arkansas Travelers. First pitch at ONEOK Field is scheduled for 7:05PM.