Tulsa, OK – After tying it with three runs in the eighth, the Tulsa Drillers walked off with a 6-5 win in the bottom of the ninth against the Springfield Cardinals before 6,762 fans at ONEOK Field on Saturday night. With the win, the Drillers claim the North Division Second Half Title and will face the Northwest Arkansas Naturals when the 2017 Texas League Postseason begins on Wednesday.
The Cardinals (41-27, 76-62) claimed an early lead in the top of the second against RHP Dennis Santana. LF Anthony Garcia worked a walk to start the stanza, before 2B Eliezer Alvarez followed suit with a free pass one out later. C Andrew Knizner then ripped an RBI single up the middle, plating Garcia from second base for the 1-0 Cardinals lead.
The Cardinals added to their lead with a pair of unearned runs in the top of the third inning. RF Magneuris Sierra and CF Oscar Mercado started the frame with consecutive singles, before both scored on Tulsa errors later in the inning to advance the Cardinals lead to 3-0.
After RHP Pedro Echemendia kept the Drillers (43-25, 76-62) off the board through his first two frames, Tulsa powered through in the bottom of the third. With one down and the bases empty, RHP Dennis Santana helped his own cause with a solo home run to left field, the first Double-A homer for the converted former position player. One out later, RF Yusniel Diaz also connected on a solo shot to left, bringing the Drillers within one run, 3-2.
The Cardinals got the two runs right back in the top of the fifth inning. LF Anthony Garcia reached with a one-out walk, before swiping himself to second base. One out later, 2B Eliezer Alvarez laced a two-out RBI single through the left side, scoring Garcia from second base. A Knizner single moved Alvarez to second, followed by a booming RBI ground-rule double to left field from SS Tommy Edman to score Alvarez and make it 5-2.
Echemendia wrapped up his outing with a scoreless fifth, before LHP Corey Littrell kept the three-run lead intact with scoreless work in the sixth and seventh.
However, the Drillers rallied back in the bottom of the eighth. Littrell retired the first batter of the frame, but then lost pinch-hitting INF Peter O’Brien to a walk. SS Errol Robinson followed the free pass with a two-run blast to left field, bringing the Drillers within one run. RHP Landon Beck (L, 1-4) took over on the mound, but RF Yusniel Diaz got all the way to second on a single and throwing error by SS Tommy Edman. 1B Matt Beaty then lined a base hit to center field, which led to a fielding error on CF Oscar Mercado allowing Diaz to score the tying run, 5-5.
The Drillers then dealt the final blow in the bottom of the ninth. 2B Drew Jackson was hit by a pitch to start the inning, before racing to third on a single from CF Johan Mieses. RHP Eric Carter took over on the mound and struck out C Garrett Kennedy for the frame’s first out. The Cardinals then intentionally walked pinch-hitting OF Blake Gailen, loading the bases with one away for Robinson. With the infield in, Robinson bounced an RBI infield single up the middle, scoring Jackson to send the Drillers to the 6-5 walk-off win and North Division Second Half Title. LHP Michael Johnson (W, 7-1) logged the win for Tulsa.