The Tulsa Drillers eight-game winning streak came to an end Monday night with an extra-innings loss at Northwest Arkansas. The Drillers carried a 5-3 lead into the eighth inning, but watched as the Naturals scored single runs in each of the next three frames and dropped a 6-5 decision.
The loss came in the next-to-last game of the first half and kept Tulsa from passing Frisco for the best record in the Texas League. Both the Drillers and RoughRiders have 40-29 records heading into the first-half finale Tuesday night.
The Tulsa offense produced 14 hits in Monday's loss, one shy of matching a season high, but it was 2 hits from Cory Dickerson and Ben Paulsen that accounted for the runs.
After Paulo Orlando singled and scored to give the Naturals a 1-0 lead in the second inning, Dickerson put the Drillers in front in the top of the fourth. Nolan Arenado led off the inning with a base and moved to third on a ground-rule double from Paulsen. Dickerson, who was just promoted from Class A Modesto last week, followed with a drive that cleared the centerfield fence for his second Double A home run that gave Tulsa a 3-1 lead.
The Naturals used two homers of their own to cut tie the game. In the bottom of the fourth, Texas League All-Star Johnny Whittleman led off with his 12th round-tripper of the season to trim the Drillers lead to one run.
It was another home run in the sixth that evened the score. Northwest Arkansas designated hitter Carlo Testa belted a two-out solo blast, his 9th of the year, to tie the game at 3-3.
Tulsa went back in front in the seventh as Mike Mitchell led off with a double. Colorado Rockies rehabbing second baseman Jonathan Herrara moved him to third with a sacrifice bunt, but Arenado struck out. With two outs and Mitchell still at third, Paulsen hit his 7th home run of the season to put the Drillers back in front 5-3.
The Naturals got one of the runs back in the eighth as the Tulsa bullpen faltered. Will Harris retired the inning's first two batters before allowing a hit and walk. With runners at first and second, Harris turned things over to Josh Sullivan. The right-hander walked Testa to load the bases before committing a balk that cut the lead to 5-4.
Sullivan surrendered another run in the ninth that again evened the score. Nick Van Stratten led off with a hit, moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on a ground out. Sullivan retired Eric Duncan on another ground out, but Whittleman dropped a two-out single into right field that tied the score and sent the game into extra innings.
In the top of the tenth, Kent Matthes made a bid to put the Drillers back in front, but his deep fly was caught at the fence by Naturals centerfielder Yem Prades.
Tulsa reliever Cory Riordan retired the first two batters in the bottom of the tenth before issuing a two-out double to Testa. Julio Rodriguez ended the game by lining a single into right that scored Testa with the winning run.
The 14 hits from the Drillers were only 8 less than they had in their entire four-game sweep of Arkansas to open the road trip. Mitchell led the attack, going 3-5, while Arenado, Paulsen and Lars Davis collected two each.
Drillers starting pitcher Joe Gardner pitched effectively, allowing nine hits and three runs in six innings. He issued only one walk while matching a season high with six strikeouts.
Tulsa and Northwest Arkansas will play the final game of the first half Tuesday night in Springdale. Dan Houston (7-5, 3.05 ERA) will pitch the finale for the Drillers against Michael Mariot (3-2, 4.89 ERA) of the Naturals. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00PM.