Several familiar storylines played out in downtown Tulsa Saturday night. A second straight sellout crowd, the 5th this season in 12 games, filled ONEOK Field. In addition, the Tulsa Drillers got another strong outing from a starting pitcher, but again the Drillers offense struggled to score runs. The result was a 2-1 Tulsa loss to Northwest Arkansas before a paid crowd of 7,851.
The loss overshadowed an impressive outing from Eddie Butler. Consistently registering in the high 90's on the stadium radar gun, the Tulsa starter surrendered two runs on only five hits and one walk, while collecting four strikeouts in 7.2 innings of work. For his efforts, he was tagged with his second loss of the season, dropping his record to 1-2, despite a 2.87 ERA.
The outing was the longest of the season for a Tulsa pitcher.
Jared Simon staked Butler to an early lead with his first home run of the season leading off the bottom of the third inning. The drive battled a 25 mph wind and landed on the grass berm in left-center field.
The Naturals wasted little time in responding. With one out in the top of the fourth, Jorge Bonifacio singled and scored when ORU product Jared Schlehuber doubled into the gap in left-center field. Butler kept Schlehuber stranded at second, getting a ground out and a fly out to end the inning.
The game remained tied at 1-1 until Butler's only walk of the night set the stage for the Naturals game winner. He walked the leadoff hitter of the inning, Angel Franco, on four pitches. After a sacrifice bunt, ninth-place hitter Justin Trapp came to the plate. With a 2-2 count, Butler thought he had struck Trapp out with a called strike, but it was ruled a ball. On the next pitch, the Northwest Arkansas second baseman lined a single into centerfield that brought Franco home with the go-ahead run.
Trapp was retired on the hit trying to advance to second on the throw home. The play proved big as Ethan Chapman followed with a single, ending Butler's night. Kraig Sitton relieved and surrendered another hit before getting Bonifacio on a fly out to end the inning.
With Naturals holding their 2-1 lead, Andrew Triggs sent the Drillers down in order in both the eighth and ninth innings to pick up his second save of the season.
Tulsa's offense was limited to only three hits in the game, with only one coming after the third inning. In the previous night's loss to the Naturals, Tulsa did not record a hit after the third.
Taylor Featherston finished 0-4, ending his 15-game hitting streak.
Northwest Arkansas reliever Cody Fassold picked up the win by working a scoreless seventh inning.
Naturals starter Jason Adam, who entered with an 8.25 ERA, was also impressive. Adam pitched six innings, allowing the one run on only three hits.
The game was the 22nd this season for the Drillers. Half of those games have been decided by a single run with Tulsa holding a 4-7 record in those contests.
The series between the teams will continue with the final two games being played at Springdale's Arvest Park. In game three Sunday afternoon, Dan Winkler (2-1, 0.75 ERA) will pitch for the Drillers against Tim Melville (0-0, 2.50 ERA) of the Naturals. Starting time in northwest Arkansas is scheduled for 2:05 p.m.