The Tulsa Drillers have produced a number of walk-off victories in the three-plus seasons of ONEOK Field, including three earlier this season, but none had the ending of Wednesday afternoon's game.
The Drillers broke a 5-5 deadlock with the Arkansas Travelers with a walk-off strikeout in the bottom of the 11th inning. The strange ending gave the Drillers a 6-5 win in the opening game of a nine-game homestand.
Third baseman Henry Wrigley tags out Taylor Lindsey during Tulsa's victory over Arkansas Wednesday afternoon. (Rich Crimi) With two outs and runners at first and second, the game appeared to be headed into the 12th when Kent Matthes struck out on a 0-2 check swing. But the third strike skipped by Jett Bandy and to the backstop. The Travs catcher was unable to quickly locate the wild pitch, allowing Jaron Shepherd to race all the way home from second base with the game-winning run.
The bizarre ending was a fitting end to a game that featured six errors and a combined ten pitchers.
The game-winning run capped a big day for Shepherd. The Tulsa designated hitter finished 3-4 with two runs scored.
The victory improved the Drillers record at ONEOK Field this season to 11-4, with four of the victories coming in their final at-bat.
The Travelers struck first in the contest with a run in the second. With one out, Randall Grichuk lined a tripled into the gap in left-center field. Taylor Lindsey followed with a base hit that dropped in front of right fielder Kent Matthes, plating Grichuk with the game's first run.
A trio of errors, including two from Lindsey at second base, helped the Drillers even the score in the bottom of the third. After Jarrett Grube struck out the first two batters of the inning, Lindsey misplayed a grounder off the bat of Delta Cleary Jr. With Cristhian Adames at the plate, Cleary Jr. swiped second base, and when the catcher's throw caromed into left field, the centerfielder raced to third.
Adames then hit a sharp grounder to the left of Lindsey that the second baseman fumbled for another error as Cleary Jr. raced home with the tying run.
Angelys Nina put the Drillers in front in the fourth with his second home run of the season. The solo shot gave Tulsa a 2-1 lead.
Unfortunately for the Drillers, just like his counterpart, Nina committed an error at second that helped the Travelers even the score in the fifth. Travis Witherspoon led off the frame with a base hit, and Bandy drew a one-out walk. With runners at first and second, Rolando Gomez hit a potential inning-ending double play grounder near the second base bag, but the ball bounced between the legs of Nina and into right field. The miscue allowed Witherspoon to cross the plate and tie the game at 2-2.
The Drillers retook the lead with a three-run fifth inning. The rally began with consecutive one-out singles from Shepherd and Cleary Jr. Adames lined a double into the left field corner that scored Shepherd to give Tulsa a one-run lead.
With runners at second and third, Matthes made it four straight hits when he grounded a single into left that brought home another run. The lead increased to 5-2 when Adames came home on a ground out off the bat of Kyle Parker.
The Travelers took advantage of another Tulsa error to trim the advantage to only two runs in the top of the sixth. With the two outs and the bases empty, third baseman Jayson Langfels was unable to handle a grounder off the bat of Grichuk. Lindsey then collected his second RBI of the game with a double to the wall in left field.
Arkansas evened the score again with a pair of runs in the eighth off reliever Joe Gardner. C.J. Cron doubled in front of Grichuk's third home run of the year that made it 5-5.
Christian Bergman worked six quality innings and was in line for the victory before the Travs late comeback. Bergman allowed five hits and three runs, but only one was earned. He walked one batter and struck out four.
The two teams will play the second game of their four-game set Thursday night at ONEOK Field. Dan Houston (0-2, 3.98 ERA) will pitch for Tulsa against another ex-Drillers hurler,Brandon Hynick (1-2, 6.00 ERA), of the Travelers. Starting time is scheduled for 7:05PM.