After another solid year, the Tulsa Drillers season came to a disappointing end Friday night in North Little Rock. In the third game of the Texas League North Division Series, the Drillers fell behind early and were unable to recover as they lost to the Arkansas Travelers 5-2 at Dickey-Stephens Park.
With the victory, Arkansas advances to the Texas League Championship where they will meet the winner of the South Division Series between San Antonio and Corpus Christi.
In a matchup of dueling pitching prospects, Arkansas' Mark Sappington got the better of Tulsa's Eddie Butler Friday night. Sappington, the #7 prospect in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organization according to MLB.com, held the Drillers to just two runs on four hits in five innings to record the victory.
Butler, who posted a 0.65 ERA in six starts with Tulsa at the end of the year, allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits in the contest. Although it was not his best performance, Butler's final statistics are not indicative of how well he pitched in the game as a number of the hits he allowed came on soft contact.
Butler is rated as the #3 prospect in the Colorado Rockies farm system.
Arkansas' Jett Bandy doubled home three runs in the second to put Tulsa into a hole it could not climb out of. Robbie Widlansky reached on an error by first baseman Dustin Garneau to begin the inning and Jimmy Swift followed with a seeing-eye single to left. After striking out Caleb Kowart, Butler issued a walk to load the bases for Bandy. The catcher, who was making his first start of the series, hit a ball down the third base line that bounced over a diving Joey Wong and into foul territory for what would be a bases-clearing double to give the Travs a 3-0 lead.
Tulsa plated two in the fourth to cut its deficit to one. With one out in the inning, Kyle Parker lined a single into center. After Kiel Roling drew a walk, Angelys Nina flared a single into shallow right field to fill the bases. Garneau followed with a sacrifice fly to center field to bring home a tagging Parker from third with Tulsa's first run. Tom Murphy then lined an RBI single into left to score Roling and pull the Drillers to within one at 3-2.
Arkansas answered with a run in the home half of the fourth and another in the fifth to extend its lead out to 5-2. Kowart singled with one out in the fourth and, after a groundout, scored on another double from Bandy.
With runners on the corners in the fifth, C.J. Cron hit a slow roller back up the middle that shortstop Cristhian Adames was unable to field cleanly. The bobble allowed Taylor Lindsey, who led off the inning with a single, to scamper home as Adames was forced to go to second for the force out.
The score would hold at 5-2 from the fifth inning on, as both bullpens were very stingy.
Joe Gardner and Mike Marbry held the Travs scoreless over the final four frames, while four Arkansas relievers proved to be equally as effective to end Tulsa's season.
Tom Murphy led the Drillers offensively, going 2-4 with an RBI in the contest, while Lindsey, Cowart and Bandy each turned in two-hit games to pace Arkansas.