The Tulsa Drillers have not enjoyed a lot of success at ONEOK Field this season, but that changed with Tuesday night's doubleheader against the Springfield Cardinals.
In game one, the Drillers rallied for a 5-4 victory in extra innings, while in the nightcap, no such heroics were needed. Tulsa scored three runs in the first inning and five more in the third and cruised to a 9-0 victory in game two.
The two wins improved the Drillers' record to 20-18, marking the first time since their opening night victory that they been above .500. The sweep also padded their first-place lead in the Texas League's North Division to two games over Arkansas and to three games over the Cardinals.
In addition, Tulsa's record at ONEOK Field improved to 7-11.
In the first game, both teams failed to hold late leads, sending the contest beyond the intended seven innings.
Springfield jumped to an early lead with runs in each of the first two innings off former Cardinals' hurler Richard Castillo. In the top of the first, Rafael Ortega reached safely courtesy of an error by Tulsa first baseman Ryan Casteel. Ortega advanced to third on a double by James Ramsey and scored on a ground out by Curt Smith.
The Cards doubled their lead to 2-0 in the second when Patrick Wisdom led off with a double and scored on a two-out base hit by pitcher Kyle Hald. It was the first hit for Hald in his professional career.
The Drillers got on the scoreboard with a run in the bottom of the second, but they missed a chance to add more. They loaded the bases with three straight singles from Casteel, Tom Murphy and Jared Simon to open the inning. Brian Humphries made it four straight hits when he dropped a single in front of leftfielder Mike O'Neill.
With the bases full and no outs, Hald escaped further damage when Jayson Langfels struck out and Castillo grounded into a 1-2-3 inning-ending double play.
The Cardinals restored their two-run lead in the top of the fourth when catcher Cody Stanley led off with his third home run of the season.
The score remained the same until two big swings of the bat in the sixth inning gave the Drillers the lead. With one out and the bases empty, Casteel drove a 1-2 offering from Hald to the opposite field for his third home run of the season to cut the Cards' lead to one run.
After Tom Murphy singled, Jared Simon lined his fourth home run of the year just over the fence in left-center field to give the Drillers a 4-3 lead.
The lead was short-lived as Cole White came on for Castillo to begin the top of the seventh. White's first offering was belted over the right field fence by pinch-hitter David Popkins to even the score at 4-4.
The Drillers failed to score in the bottom of the seventh, sending the game into extra innings. Nelson Gonzalez worked a scoreless top of the eighth, setting the stage for Tulsa's game-winning rally in the bottom of the inning.
It began when Casteel reached on a one-out error by shortstop Matt Williams. Murphy followed with a double into the left field corner that put runners at second and third. The Cards elected to intentionally walk Simon to load the bases and bring Humphries to the plate. He hit a sharp liner directly to Ramsey in right field who jumped to make the catch. Ramsey quickly set and threw home, but Casteel slid in safely with the game-winning run just prior to catcher Stanley's tag.
In game two, the Drillers quick start began when Delta Cleary Jr. doubled with one out, and Cristhian Adames singled. With two outs, Humphries continued his big night with a two-run single. A run-scoring hit by Harold Riggins completed the three-run first.
Tulsa's five-run third began when the first four hitters reached base safely, capped by RBI hits from Casteel and Humphries. Joey Wong singled home two more runs before Tyler Massey completed the inning with a sacrifice fly that put the Drillers in front 8-0.
Riggins finished off the big offensive output with his fourth home of the season run in the fifth inning that upped the margin to nine runs.
The nine runs were more than enough support for Carlos Hernandez, who was making his third start in a doubleheader game this season. The lefthander, who works predominantly out of the bullpen, scattered three hits in five scoreless innings to pick up his first win of the season. Hernandez did not walk a batter and struck out four.
Ken Roberts completed the shutout with two scoreless relief innings. It was already Tulsa's sixth shutout win of the season, but only its second at home.
The Drillers and Cardinals will quickly return to action with the third game of their four-game series Wednesday afternoon at ONEOK Field. Eddie Butler (1-4, 3.45 ERA) will pitch for Tulsa against Sam Gaviglio (1-5, 6.03 ERA) of Springfield. First pitch in downtown Tulsa is scheduled for 12:05PM.