Wednesday's matchup between Tulsa and Northwest Arkansas figured to be a pitcher's duel with veteran Brandon Hynick of the Drillers facing 20-year-old Yordano Ventura of the Naturals. For eight innings, it was exactly that with a home run from Tulsa outfielder Mike Zuanich the game's only offense.
With both starters removed from the game, the Drillers exploded for five runs in the top of the ninth inning and defeated Ventura and the Naturals 6-3 at Springdale's Arvest Ballpark.
The victory was the third straight win for the Drillers.
Hynick and Ventura were both outstanding in the game with both starters pitching seven innings. The only mistake between the two came in the top of the third when Zuanich hit his third home run of the year to give Tulsa a 1-0 lead. It would be the only run either starter would surrender.
Hynick allowed only five singles and did not walk a batter in his seven innings as his changing of speeds kept the Naturals off balance. He recorded only two strikeouts with 12 of his other 19 outs coming on ground balls.
His strong outing was needed as the young Ventura, who was the starting pitcher for the World Team in the recent Future's Game, was almost as effective. The hard throwing right-hander used a fastball that approached 100 m.p.h. to keep Tulsa's bats quiet.
In his seven innings, Ventura surrendered only two hits but one of those was the homer from Zuanich. He walked only one hitter while striking out seven. The only other hit he allowed was a double to Nolan Arenado in the fourth inning that hit at the top of the centerfield fence.
Zuanich's home run came in the top of the third. After Lars Davis struck out to open the inning, the left fielder lofted a towering drive into the Tulsa bullpen in left field.
For eight innings, it looked as if it would be the only offense of the night, but the Drillers exploded for five insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Mike Mitchell and Angelys Nina opened the inning with consecutive singles off reliever Nick Rogers. Jon Keck took over for Rogers and walked Ben Paulsen and Kent Matthes to force in the game's second run. With the bases loaded, Jimmy Cesario belted a grand slam homer to give the Drillers a 6-0 lead. For Cesario, it was his second home run of the season.
The grand slam proved valuable as the Naturals scored three times off reliever Tim Sexton with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to make things interesting. With the potential tying run at the plate, Joey Williamson was called upon to record the game's final out and pick up his first save of the season.
The victory for Hynick improved his Texas League record to 3-1, while the loss for Ventura, who has spent most of the year with Class A Wilmington, dropped his TL record to 0-2.
Northwest Arkansas out-hit Tulsa 10-5 in the game with five of the hits coming in the final inning.
Tulsa will look for a three-game sweep of Northwest Arkansas in Thursday's series finale. The Drillers will send Parker Frazier (4-11, 3.80 ERA) to the mound, while the Naturals will counter with Ryan Dennick (5-4, 5.05 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:00PM in Arvest Ballpark.