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Drillers Surrender 9th-Inning Lead But Get Playoff Spot

August 1, 2020 - Texas League (TL) - Tulsa Drillers News Release

AMARILLO, TX - It was strange night of baseball Saturday in Amarillo as the Tulsa Drillers faced the Sod Squad in game two of three-game series. For much of the night, it seemed neither team cared to win as each side took turns surrendering leads. Unfortunately for the Drillers, they blew the last lead, giving up four runs in the bottom of the ninth as the Sod Dogs rallied for a 6-5 walk-off win.

Despite the defeat, it was not all bad news for the Drillers. They learned Saturday evening that they will have a spot in the Texas Collegiate League playoffs. The Drillers will enter the post-season as the second-place team in the North after Frisco was ruled ineligible for the postseason by the league directors. The RoughRiders will finish in second place in the North Division but have had nearly half of their regular season games cancelled.

The Drillers will face the Sod Squad in the best-of-three division series with Game 1 scheduled for Tuesday, August 4 at ONEOK Field. Games 2, and if necessary, Game 3 will be played at Amarillo's Hodgetown on August 5 and August 6. The North winner will face the South Divison winner in a one-game championship on Saturday, August 8 in the ballpark of team with the best record.

The game on Saturday proved to be the strangest of the season for the Drillers, and starting pitcher Matt Merrill was the early story. The University of Arts & Science Oklahoma right-hander was making his first start of the season, and he was dominant. He allowed only 2 hits to the Sod Squad in 5 scoreless innings while striking out 11. The strikeout total set a season high for a Tulsa pitcher.

Merrill departed with a 1-0 lead after ORU's Jordan Wiley walked in the fourth inning and scored on a two-out hit from Aidan Nagle.

The Sod Dogs took the lead with a two-run sixth. Tulsa reliever Zach Maxwell struck out the first two batters of the inning before walking Mike Rosario on four straight pitches. Jose Torres followed with a double that rolled to the wall in right-center field, scoring Rosario all the way from first to tie the game. Torres scored the go-ahead run on a chopper to third that was generously scored a base hit after bouncing off the glove of third baseman Jaden Brown.

The Drillers went back in front on a big two-run double from Wiley in the eighth inning. They added two more runs in the ninth to carry a 5-2 lead into the Sod Squad's final at-bat.

The bottom of the ninth turned into a disaster, beginning with hit batter to open the inning. An error and another walk loaded the bases with no outs.

Adam Scoggins was summoned from the bullpen to replace Austin Vernon, and the ORU lefthander got a strikeout to get the Drillers within two outs of a win.

A ground out to first produced a second out, but it plated a run and put the tying and potential winning runs in scoring position. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Ben Rozenblum tied the game at 5-5 with a two-run single.

The game appeared headed to extra innings when Rosario hit an infield grounder, but Tulsa second baseman Cam Chick misplayed the ball. When Chick held the ball, Rozenblum raced all the way home with the winning run.

TULSA HITTERS: The game featured only 12 hits with 6 from each team.

Nagle was the only Tulsa player with more than one hit, finishing 2-4.

Wiley was 1-3 with 3 runs batted in and 2 walks.

Max Hewitt went 1-4 with a run-scoring single.

TULSA PITCHERS: Merrill was outstanding in his first start and fourth outing of the season. The former Houston Astros draft pick has allowed just 1 run in 12.2 innings. Twenty-seven of the 38 outs that he has recorded have come on strikeouts.

Shane Mejia worked 1.2 scoreless relief innings.

Five Tulsa pitchers combined for 18 strikeouts in the game, one short of matching a season high.

UP NEXT: The Drillers will close out the regular season Sunday evening in Amarillo with the third and final game against the Sod Squad. First pitch at Hodgetown is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.

Sunday's finale can be viewed online with a subscription to TCL-TV.

The starting pitchers for are scheduled to be:

Tulsa - TBA

Amarillo - TBD

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