Thursday night's series opener between the Tulsa Drillers and the Corpus Christi Hooks marked a clash between the first half South Division winners in the Hooks and the second half North Division leaders in the Drillers. A sellout crowd of 8,326 turned out to take in the game and weathered a 45 minute rain delay before the storms finally exited, allowing the game to begin. But the Hooks were not fazed by the crowd or the delay as they jumped out to an early lead and then held on to defeat the Drillers 4-1 at ONEOK Field.
Tulsa came into the night in first place in the second half thanks to a 6-2 record over its last eight contests. But the Hooks reminded the Drillers why they won the South Division in the first half as Brian Holmes delivered six strong innings while his teammates flexed their offensive muscles right off the bat.
Outfielder Teoscar Hernandez led off the ballgame by launching the second pitch he saw for a solo blast over the fence in center to give Corpus a quick 1-0 lead. The homer was the eighth of the year for the number eight overall Houston Astros prospect.
Hernandez was a thorn in Tulsa starter Ross Stripling's side yet again in the second inning, coming through with a two-out, two-run single into center to increase the Hooks' lead to 3-0.
Corpus added yet another run in the third. Jon Kemmer led off with a double and eventually came around to score on another two-out, RBI base hit; this one off the bat of Jiovanni Mier.
Peter Lavin responded for the Drillers in the bottom of the third with a solo homer to cut the Tulsa deficit to 4-1. But things settled down from there as both pitching staffs started putting up matching zeros on the scoreboard.
After Stripling wrapped up his night with a scoreless fourth inning, Eric Stults came on for the Drillers in the fifth. The veteran lefthander gave Tulsa some valuable relief as he turned in five shutout innings to keep the game close. But the Drillers were unable to mount any offense against Corpus' pitching staff.
Besides the home run surrendered to Lavin, Holmes cruised through his six innings of work. The tall right-hander scattered three hits while striking out five Driller batters before turning the game over to reliever Josh Hader in the seventh.
Hader matched Stults' efforts in relief as he hurled two scoreless frames of his own. The Drillers threatened in the bottom of the eighth as they put runners on first and second with two outs. But Hader struck out Lars Anderson to snuff out Tulsa's rally attempt and send the game to the ninth. All six outs recorded by the Hooks' lefty came via strikeouts.
The Drillers made one last comeback attempt in the bottom of the ninth as they put men on first and second yet again against the Hooks' All-Star closer Jandel Gustave. But Gustave settled down and got Jeremy Rathjen to pop out to end the ballgame and earn his tenth save of the season.
Tulsa and Corpus will continue the series Friday night with the second straight night of post-game fireworks celebrating Independence Weekend. Getting the start for the Drillers will be Jharel Cotton (1-0, 1.38 ERA) while Locust Grove product Adrian Houser (0-1, 4.50 ERA) gets the nod for the Hooks. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05PM.