Error Costly for Drillers in Playoff Opener
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR - Arkansas and Tulsa played on level terms for nearly three hours Wednesday night in Game 1 of the North Division Playoff Series before a costly error in the bottom of the eighth inning sent the Drillers to an opening-game loss. With two outs and the score tied, what looked to be an inning-ending infield grounder was thrown away for an error that allowed the winning to score, giving the Travelers a 2-1 win and a one-game lead in the best-of-five series.
It was a difficult loss for the Drillers who have struggled with the Travelers all season. Tulsa won only 9 of 30 meetings between the two teams during the regular season, but they had not met since June 30.
Both team's rosters had undergone several changes since that last meeting, but the Travelers dominance continued.
For much of the night, it was a case of missed scoring opportunities. Both teams put runners on base in every at-bat through the first seven innings.
The Drillers squandered a pair of good, early scoring opportunities, leaving the bases loaded in both the third and fourth innings.
Connor Wong finally opened the scoring in the top of the fifth. With one out, the Drillers catcher hit an opposite-field home run that just cleared the right field fence, staking Tulsa to a 1-0 lead.
The Travelers had base runners in each of the first six innings, but they could not push across a run. Their fortunes changed in their final two at-bats as they scored a pair of runs without a clean base hit.
Tulsa reliever Ryan Moseley worked a scoreless sixth but was unfortunate in the seventh. Mike Ahmed led off with a 70-foot ground ball that turned into an infield hit, and Luis Liberato followed with a grounder up the middle that took a bad hop over the glove of a diving Jeter Downs.
Nolan Long came on for Moseley, and, after a sacrifice bunt, the Travs got on the scoreboard when Jarred Kelenic's grounder to second plated Ahmed to tie the game at 1-1.
The winning rally in the eighth began when Long issued a leadoff walk to Cal Raleigh. Kyle Lewis followed with a chopper in front of the plate that Wong grabbed and, after considering a throw to second, threw to first for the first out, but Raleigh moved into scoring position. After a pop out, Dom Thompson-Williams hit a slow chopper to the right side of the infield that second baseman Omar Estevez charged and fielded. Estevez attempted an off-balance throw to first, but his effort was well wide of the base and caromed off the dugout railing as Raleigh raced home with the go-ahead run.
The Travs hard-throwing closer Sam Delaplane made sure the run was the game winner. He needed only seven pitches to set the Drillers down in order in the ninth and give the Travelers the important Game 1 win.
WHAT YOU MISSED
*Both starting pitchers worked deliberately but effectively. Tulsa starter JoJo Gray allowed base runners in each of his five innings, but he kept the Travelers off the scoreboard. He gave up four hits and issued one walk while striking out six in his five shutout frames. He threw 94 pitches, 60 for strikes.
Arkansas starter Ricardo Sanchez surrendered six hits, including Wong's homer. He walked three batters and struck out four, throwing 54 strikes in 92 total pitches.
*Long was charged with the loss, but the right-hander has still not allowed an earned run since July 30.
*Each team had seven hits in the game. All seven of the Travs' hits were singles.
*The two teams were a combined 0-19 with runners in scoring position as a total of 20 base runners were stranded in the game.
UP NEXT: Game 2 North Division Playoff Series
Tulsa at Arkansas, Thursday, September 5, at 7:05 PM at Dickey-Stephens Stadium in North Little Rock, AR. LHP Leo Crawford (2-0, 2.37 ERA) versus RHP Justin Dunn (9-5, 3.55 ERA).
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Texas League Stories from September 5, 2019
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- Five-Run Third Inning Leads Hounds to Game One Win - Midland RockHounds
- Travs Stun Drillers with Late Rally in Game 1 - Arkansas Travelers
- Error Costly for Drillers in Playoff Opener - Tulsa Drillers
- Sod Poodles Eleven Hits Not Enough in 8-3 Game One Loss to RockHounds - Amarillo Sod Poodles
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