TULSA–With only six games remaining in the first half of the season, the Tulsa Drillers began a critical homestand Wednesday night at ONEOK Field hoping to edge closer in the Texas League’s North Division pennant race.
But, Northwest Arkansas had other ideas, scoring eight times in an early offensive outburst, before fending off a late Tulsa rally. The final result was an 8-6 loss for the Drillers that dropped them three full games behind the first-place Naturals in the North Division standings.
Northwest Arkansas put the Drillers in an early hole in Wednesday’s opener, scoring in each of the first four innings, including four in the top of the first. Nicky Lopez singled home the game’s first run before Anderson Miller capped the big first inning with a three-run homer off Tulsa starter Justin De Fratus.
The homer barrage continued in the second and third innings. Donnie Dewees hit a solo home run in the second, and Miller did the same in the third. Miller’s second homer upped the Naturals lead to six runs.
A pair of Drillers errors helped Northwest Arkansas increase its lead to 8-0 in the fourth.
The runs would prove to be important as Tulsa’s offense awoke in the bottom of the fifth.Yusniel Diaz singled and eventually scored on a fielder’s choice ground out by Jacob Scavuzzo to break the shutout.
The Drillers scored four more runs in the seventh to get back into the game. Connor Joeopened the inning with a double and scored when Diaz followed with a single. After Will Smith walked, Keibert Ruiz doubled home Diaz to cut the Naturals lead to 8-3. Drew Jackson singled home another run, and Luke Raley completed the big inning with a sacrifice fly, pulling Tulsa to within three runs.
Smith made it 8-6 when he led off the bottom of the ninth with his sixth home run of the season, but Tulsa would get no closer as Naturals closer Jake Newberry retired the next three batters to end the game.
WHAT YOU MISSED
*The Texas League All-Star Teams were announced Wednesday afternoon, and the Drillers were well represented. Manager Scott Hennessey and his staff will handle the North Division All-Stars for the game that will be played on June 26 in Midland, Texas. Also named to the North Division squad from the Drillers were infielders Jackson and Joe, catcher Ruiz and pitchers De Fratus and Yadier Alvarez.
*Reliever Andrew Istler gave the Drillers a chance to get back into the game Wednesday with three shutout innings out of the bullpen. Istler allowed three hits and did not walk a batter in his time on the mound.
*Much of the Naturals’ damage was done by Lopez, who finished with four hits, and Miller, who had four runs batted in off his two homers.
*Before the game, the Drillers placed outfielder Tyler Goeddel on the disabled list. Replacing Goeddel on the active roster was infielder Mike Ahmed, who returned to Tulsa from Oklahoma City.
*The current 12-game homestand will be the longest of the season and will run through June 24. It will see the end of the first half (June 18) and the beginning of the second half (June 19).
The Drillers will again host the first-place Naturals on Thursday night at ONEOK Field for game two of their four-game set. Starting time is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. with the starting pitchers slated to be:
NWA Emilio Ogando (4-3, 5.84 ERA)
TUL Andrew Sopko (1-0, 1.50 ERA)