Drillers Win to Remain in Pennant Race
With five games to play in the first half, and three games behind in the standings, the Tulsa Drillers entered Thursday night in a must-win situation against the first-place Northwest Arkansas Naturals. A combination of clutch hitting and a strong outing from starting pitcher Andrew Sopko produced that win. The Drillers bats erupted in the fourth inning with four extra-base hits that gave Sopko and the pitching staff enough support for a 5-2 win at ONEOK Field.
The offense started early for both teams. After the Naturals produced two singles in the top of the first inning that put runners at first and second, Elier Hernandez grounded out to the shortstop. Former Drillers infielder Erick Mejia was on second, and did not stop at third on the groundout and came around to score the game's first run.
The Drillers answered in the bottom of the first when Errol Robinson singled and stole second, before coming home on Connor Joe's single to tied things up at 1-1.
Northwest Arkansas took the lead in the top of the fourth after an Alex Liddi homer, but Tulsa again responded with its barrage of four extra base hits. Mike Ahmed started the rally with a drive that almost traveled over the right field wall, but bounced just right so that he could leg out a triple. Drew Jackson and Errol Robinson followed with back-to-back doubles to give the Drillers the lead. Connor Joe capped off the big inning with another run-scoring double to put the Drillers on top 4-2.
Tulsa struck again in the bottom of the eighth. Jacob Scavuzzo doubled and Jackson traded places at second with another double to extend the Drillers lead to 5-2.
Sopko in just his second start of the year for the Drillers, turned in his second straight quality outing. The right-hander worked 6.2 innings, giving up just the two runs on four hits while striking out six.
WHAT YOU MISSED
*Sopko has turned in two quality starts with Tulsa. In 12.2 innings, he has picked up two wins and has given up only three runs.
*Jackson led the way in the win with three of the nine Tulsa hits. The middle infielder will be one of four Drillers in the Texas League All-Star Game on June 26 in Midland.
*The Drillers bullpen was strong once again. Ariel Hernandez gave up only one hit in 1.1 innings, and Dylan Baker closed the door by striking out the side in the ninth inning, earning his fourth save.
*Jackson and Robinson both notched a stolen base in the win.
*The Drillers are now two games back of the first-place Naturals with four games to play in the first half.
The Drillers will take on the Naturals again on Friday night, and the night will include post-game fireworks. First pitch at ONEOK Field is scheduled for 7:05 PM, and the probable starters are:
TUL Devin Smeltzer (2-5, 5.49 ERA)
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