The Tulsa Drillers and San Antonio Missions battled for 11 innings and for over 3 hours Monday afternoon at ONEOK Field. At various points, each team seemed in position to claim a big, early-season win, but it was San Antonio who eventually picked up the victory. In a back and forth contest, the Missions plated two runs in the top of the eleventh, then held off the Drillers in the bottom of the inning to claim a 5-4 victory.
The loss dropped the Drillers season record to 2-3. They will conclude their season-opening home stand with another game against the Missions Tuesday night in downtown Tulsa.
San Antonio broke a 3-3 tie with a pair of runs in the 11th inning. Travis Jankowski led off with a base hit against Kenny Roberts and scored the tie-breaking run on a double by Rymer Liriano. When a grounder off the bat of Robert Kral skipped past first baseman Ryan Casteel, Liriano came home with what proved to be a crucial insurance run.
It was crucial because Tom Murphy led off the bottom half of the 11th with his second home run of the season to cut Tulsa's deficit to 5-4. The Drillers would get no closer as reliever Johnny Barbato would retire the next three hitters to end the contest.
It was a game that neither side seemed to want to win or lose.
The Drillers failed to hold a late one-run lead, while the Missions could not protect a one-run cushion in extra innings.
Tulsa used a two-run third inning to take a lead that lasted until the eighth inning. With one out in the eighth and the bases empty, Lee Orr deposited an offering from reliever Kraig Sitton into the Drillers bullpen. The opposite field homer tied the score at 2-2.
The Missions appeared to plate the game-winning run in the top of the tenth inning when Robert Kral drew a leadoff walk from Nelson Gonzalez and Kyle Gaedele doubled him home.
But, Ryan Casteel kept the game going when he led off the bottom of the tenth with a long home run that easily cleared the Budweiser Terrace section in left field.
A pair of errors by the Drillers had helped San Antonio take an early lead in the game with a run in the top of the first inning. With one out, Corey Spangenberg singled and moved to second when pitcher Richard Castillo threw wildly past first on a pickoff attempt. After Jace Peterson flied out, Spangenberg came home when Rymer Liriano reached on an infield single and a throwing error by shortstop Cristhian Adames.
The run kept a dubious streak alive for the Drillers. They have yet to score first in any of their five games this season.
San Antonio starting pitcher James Needy breezed through the first two innings before Tulsa struck in the third. Tim Smalling led off with a base hit, and after Castillo failed on a sacrifice attempt, Tyler Massey singled to put runners at the corners. Following a stolen base from Massey, Adames brought both runners home with a double into the gap in right-center field that put the Drillers in front 2-1.
Castillo was brilliant in his first start for the Drillers. The right-hander needed only 54 pitches to get through 6 innings. Castillo surrendered only two hits and the unearned run while walking one and striking out three.
The strong outing continued a trend. In the first five games of the season, Tulsa starters have a combined 1.32 ERA in 27.1 innings of work, allowing only 13 hits and 4 earned runs. Despite the strong performances, only one starter was credited with a victory.
The Drillers defensive struggles continued as they committed three errors in a game for the third time this season. After leading the Texas League in fielding last year, they have now been charged with 12 errors this season.