Former University of Oklahoma pitcher Jon Gray made his much anticipated Tulsa debut at ONEOK Field Saturday night, but the Corpus Christi Hooks played the role of villains in the presentation. Gray pitched effectively but the Hooks were able to plate four runs off the right-hander and held off a late Drillers rally to post a 7-4 victory before 7,256 in downtown Tulsa.
The result gave the Hooks two victories in the season-opening three-game series and dropped the Drillers record to 1-2.
Gray, who is from nearby Chandler, Oklahoma, was effective in his Double-A debut, consistently measuring in the mid-90s with his fastball. In six innings, the Colorado Rockies 2013 first-round draft pick surrendered five hits and four runs, but only three were earned. The right-hander issued only one walk while striking out five.
The speedy Delino DeShields particularly caused problems. He gave the Hooks a quick lead as he was hit by a pitch leading off the game. DeShields swiped second base and moved to third on a bad pickoff throw from Gray. From there, he scored the game's first run on a sacrifice fly by Andrew Aplin.
Right fielder Preston Tucker doubled the lead to 2-0 in the second inning with his first home run of the season. Tucker's blast landed near the top of the grass berm beyond the right field bullpens.
The Drillers got both of the runs back in the bottom of the second. Dustin Garneau drew a leadoff walk and moved to third on a base hit by Ryan Casteel. Garneau came home with Tulsa's first run on a fielder's choice grounder by Jayson Langfels. Langfels then stole second and came home on a single by Joey Wong that tied the game at 2-2.
Corpus Christi wasted little time in retaking the lead, plating two more runs in the top of the third. After DeShields reached base on another hit by pitch, Nolan Fontana followed with a ground-rule double. Alpin picked up his second and third RBI with a two-run single that gave the Hooks a 4-2 lead.
The margin remained two runs until the Hooks scored three times in the seventh. Rene Garcia accounted for the first two runs with a 2-run homer off Tulsa reliever Ryan Arrowood.
DeShields scored his third run of the game to cap the big inning. The centerfielder singled, stole second and moved to third when no one covered as catcher Garneau threw to second base. Fontana's grounded single into right field plated DeShields to make it 7-2.
Tulsa crept closer with a two-out rally in the eighth as Garneau singled in front of Casteel's first home run of the season.
The Drillers threatened again in the bottom of the ninth against reliever Ross Seaton. They loaded the bases with two outs when Langfels and Tim Smalling singled around a walk to Jared Simon. Hooks manager Keith Bodie summoned Andrew Robinson from the bullpen. Robinson struck out Taylor Featherston to end the game.
The Hooks out-hit the Drillers 11-9 in the contest and had five different players finish with two hits each. Casteel was the only Tulsa player with more than one hit, finishing 2-4.
DeShields was a constant nuisance in the series, stealing five bases and scoring four runs, but he was caught stealing three times.
For the second straight game, Tulsa committed three errors.
The Drillers season-opening homestand will continue Sunday afternoon when they begin a three-game series against the San Antonio Missions. Lefthander Tyler Anderson will make his Double-A debut for Tulsa, while James Needy will take the mound for San Antonio. Starting time at ONEOK Field is slated for 2:05 p.m.