Drillers Win to Advance to TCL Championship
AMARILLO, TX - The Tulsa Drillers are headed to the Texas Collegiate League Championship Game. The Drillers won the TCL North Division title Thursday night with a tense 9-6 win over the Amarillo Sod Squad at Hodgetown.
The decisive game featured just about everything, including a grand slam, ejections and even a rain delay. In the end, the Drillers punched their ticket to the TCL Championship Game. The winner-take-all title game will be played Saturday night in Bryan, Texas against the Brazos Valley Bombers.
The Amarillo bats attacked Tulsa starting pitcher Colton Williams early as he gave up his first hits of the season. Three singles loaded the bases for the Sod Squad in the first inning before a sacrifice fly by Mike Rosario brought in Tommy Williams to give Amarillo an early 1-0 lead.
The Drillers missed an early opportunity to score when they loaded the based on three consecutive base hits with two outs in the second inning. The threat ended on a full-count strikeout.
Tulsa was able to tie the game in the third inning. With runners at first and second, Max Hewitt hit a ground ball that found its way past the infield, allowing Clay Owens to score from second and even the score at 1-1.
The Drillers had the bases loaded for a second time in the fourth inning, and this time they made the most of it. With two outs, Owens hit a towering drive that just cleared the fence in right field for a grand slam that gave Tulsa a 5-1 lead.
Ryan Miller came in to pitch the third inning and held on to the four-run lead. Following a lead-off single in the fourth, Shane Mejia came on and surrendered two walks and two hits as Amarillo closed its deficit to just 5-4.
During the fifth inning, lightning entered the area and the game went into a one hour and nineteen minutes rain delay. When the game resumed, the Sod Squad had runners at first and second with ORU's Adam Scoggins on the mound for the Drillers. After a wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third, Scoggins would get two ground balls to get out of the inning. On the first one, the potential tying run was thrown out at the plated.
Tulsa got an insurance run in the top of the sixth. With two outs, Jamal O'Guinn drew a four-pitch walk to bring his USC Trojan teammate Owens to the plate. Owens delivered again with a deep fly ball off the right field wall, scoring O'Guinn to up the Drillers lead to 6-4.
Tulsa got even more insurance in the seventh inning when Alec Sanchez hit a three-run blast just inside the right field foul pole, increasing the lead to 9-4. As Sanchez touched homeplate, Amarillo pitcher Nic Daniels was ejected from the game for arguing with the homeplate umpire. Daniels had to be restrained by a teammate before leaving the field. Sod Squad outfielder Mike Rosario was also ejected in the in the seventh after striking out, prompting a long argument from Amarillo manager Brett Wellman.
The Sod Squad fought back and put the Drillers in a jam in the eighth inning as closer Austin Vernon came into the game with the bases loaded and only one out. A single by David Marcano brought one run in before Vernon hit Julio Marcano with a pitch to force in a second run. A 1-6-3 double play got Tulsa and Vernon out of the jam with a 9-6 lead still in place.
The hard-throwing Vernon took the suspense out of the bottom of the ninth, retiring the Sod Squad in order to book Tulsa's ticket in the TCL Championship.
TULSA HITTERS: The Drillers generated ten hits and drew nine walks in the game.
Owens went 2-4 with 5 RBIs including the grand slam in the fourth.
Sanchez finished 2-5 and had three RBI.
O'Guinn recorded only one official at bat as he was 1-1 with three walks.
TULSA PITCHERS: Scoggins was outstanding as he pitched three crucial innings when Tulsa was running low on hurlers. The lefthander struck out four.
Vernon picked up his third save of the year as he got the final five outs for the Drillers.
UP NEXT: The Drillers will play for the Texas Collegiate League Championship Saturday night in their first season in the league. Brazos Valley, which features several players from Texas A&M, has dominated the league recently, winning six of the last seven titles. Brazos Valley is located in Bryan, Texas, just minutes from the Texas A&M campus.
The Championship will be a one-game meeting with the winner claiming the TCL title. First pitch on Saturday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Travis Field.
The Championship Game can be viewed online with a subscription to TCL-TV.
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