Tulsa and Arkansas exchanged shutouts in the first two games of a four-game series in Little Rock, with pitchers dominating both games. That was not the case in game three Wednesday morning at Dickey-Stephens Park. The Drillers scored nine runs in the contest, yet lost as the Travelers twice staged rallies, including three runs in the bottom of the ninth to claim a 10-9 victory.
It was a surprising development for the Drillers as they entered the game with streak of 21 straight innings without surrendering an earned run.
The game began promisingly as Tulsa took a lead with a pair of runs in the top of the second inning. Lars Anderson drew a leadoff walk and scored on a triple from Peter Lavin. A groundout from Jon Garcia plated Lavin to make it 2-0.
The lead increased to five with three more runs in the fourth, and again Anderson and Lavin were involved. With one out, Anderson drew a walk, and Travis Witherspoon followed with an infield hit. Lavin brought them both home with a double into the gap in left field, then scored himself on a base hit by Garcia to up the Drillers lead to 5-0.
The lead disappeared with a big seven-run outburst from the Travelers in the bottom of the sixth as the first five batters in the inning reached safely against Tulsa starter Jeremy Kehrt.
With the Drillers lead trimmed to 5-4, a two-run triple from Anthony Bemboom off reliever Ralston Cash put the Travelers in front. A run-scoring ground out from Sherman Johnson capped the big inning for Arkansas.
A strange play in the top of the seventh helped the Drillers tie the score at 7-7. With one out and the bases empty, Corey Seager dropped a double down the left field line. Apparently thinking the play was dead, Arkansas leftfielder Kentrail Davis flipped the ball to a fan in the stands. Because the play was still live, Seager was awarded two additional bases and jogged home with Tulsa's sixth run.
One pitch later Brian Burgamy put the Drillers back on even terms when he belted his second home run of the year.
Tulsa went back in front with two runs in the top of the ninth. Seager drew a walk, and Burgamy singled in front of a sacrifice bunt from Daniel Mayora. Anderson followed with a two-run single that put the Drillers back on top 9-7.
Things slowly unraveled in the bottom of the ninth. Mike Thomas walked the first batter and hit the second to put the potential tying runs on base.
Closer Blake Smith took over and was greeted with a sacrifice bunt attempt by Chad Henshaw. Third baseman Mayora bobbled the bunt for an error that loaded the bases with no outs. Thomas recovered to strike out Cal Towey, but Brian Hernandez delivered a game tying two-run single.
With runners at first and second, Wade Hinkle ended the back-and-forth contest with a base hit to right field that plated the winning run for the Travs.
The loss overshadowed big games from Bergamy and Lavin. Bergamy finished with three hits, while Lavin added two to go along with three runs batted in.
Every Tulsa started tallied at least one hit in the game, while Davis was the only Arkansas starter who did not register a hit.
For five innings, it appeared that Kehrt was headed to his second straight victory. He blanked the Travelers on only three hits through the first five frames before the tough sixth.
The Drillers and Travelers will conclude their series in Little Rock Thursday evening. Dustin Richardson (0-0, 6.00 ERA) will make his second start for Tulsa, while Arkansas will counter with Nate Smith (3-0, 1.54 ERA). Starting time for the finale is scheduled for 7:10PM at Dickey-Stephens Park.