The Tulsa Drillers are finally getting things rolling at home. After starting the week with a 7-0 loss at Springfield, Tulsa returned home and won two of three against the Arkansas Travelers and one of two against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Highlights from the past week included a come from behind win over Arkansas on Wednesday, the return of 2004 Minor League Player of the Year Jeff Francis on Thursday and a 9-0 thrashing of the Naturals on Sunday.
Two more home games with the Naturals await the Drillers this week before they embark on an eight-game road stretch.
Monday Massacre: Tulsa dropped the final game of a four-game series at Springfield, losing 7-0 after winning the previous three games in the series. Springfield’s Scott Gorgen scattered three hits through seven innings as the Cardinals crushed two homers that accounted for five of their runs. Bruce Billings allowed six hits, picking up his third consecutive loss for the Drillers.
Tuesday Triumph: The Drillers held on to beat the Travelers at home in a low scoring affair. Keith Weiser threw 55 strikes in seven innings of work, allowing only one run to pick up his second win of the season in a 2-1 decision. Tulsa’s Daniel Mayora hit his first home run of the season in the first inning.
Wild Wednesday: The bats were aplenty for both teams during a rare morning game that saw over 5,000 local school kids in attendance. Andy Graham improved his record to 2-0 on the season, allowing just one hit in 1.2 innings of relief work. A five run fourth inning rally erased a 4-1 Arkansas lead as the Drillers claimed an 8-4 win after a late-game two-run dinger by Jason Van Kooten.
Thursday Marathon: Francis saw his first action since 2008 as he continues to rehab from shoulder surgery that sidle-lined him for the entire 2009 MLB season. Francis struck out three, while allowing five hits through 4.2 innings. Twelve scoreless innings extended a 2-2 tie into the top of the sixteenth inning before Arkansas designated hitter Paul McAnulty blasted a two-run shot to right field to secure a 4-2 win.
Saturday Struggle: The Drillers fell 8-1 to the Naturals in their first of a four-game home series. Edgar Osuna allowed just one run and four hits through six innings as he picked up his fourth win of the year for Northwest Arkansas. Designated hitter Ernesto Mejia hit two home runs, including a three-run third inning shot that put the Naturals comfortably in the lead while they out-hit the Drillers 13-5.
Sunday Stampede: Billings picked up his second win of the season, as he struck out three while allowing just four hits and no runs as the Drillers defeated the Naturals 9-0. Tulsa’s bats came to life in the middle of the game, as they scored two runs in the fourth, three runs in the fifth and four runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach. Drillers’ right fielder Ryan Harvey collected his fifth homer of the season on a two-run shot in the bottom of the fourth.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Monday and Tuesday mark the final two games of a four-game set at ONEOK Field with Northwest Arkansas. Monday’s game is set for a 7:05 p.m. start, while Francis is tentatively scheduled to start for the Drillers on Tuesday at 12:05 p.m. Tulsa has the day off on Wednesday for travel, then they will close out the week with a four-game set at Arkansas through Sunday. The Drillers will not return home until Friday, May 21 when they again host the Springfield Cardinals for a four-game series.
ONEOK A WINNER
To quote the voice from the heavens in the classic baseball movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” That is what has been happening at the new ONEOK Field in downtown Tulsa. Through 15 home games the Drillers have drawn 94,681 fans for an average of 6,312 per game. The single-season attendance record for the Drillers was set during the 1999 season when 351,929 attended a game at Drillers Stadium.
Tulsa currently ranks second in the Texas League behind Frisco, who with one more home opening to date has had 117,257 fans in attendance for an average of 7,328 per game. If the Drillers keep pace with their current average they will surpass last year’s attendance by more than 125,000 fans. Through 70 home dates last season the Drillers attendance was 316,365 (4,520 average) while this season they are on pace to play host to 441,840 fans.
Early grumblings from nay-sayers have been proven wrong, as fans have found that plenty of parking does exist within walking distance to the new stadium. While Drillers Stadium was a staple to baseball fans for over two decades, it is clear to see that ONEOK Field was a much needed improvement. The wide open concourses with clear views of the field is just one reason for even the most casual fan to attend a game.
A full concourse wrapping around the entire field meets with general admission berm seating in center and right fields, while the left field terrace seats are a great place to catch that coveted home run ball. There is also plenty of standing room with drink rails along the right field line and a large platform along the left field line. Throw in the breath taking views from the seats along the third base line, and this stadium has the makings of a home run for downtown Tulsa. Photo by John Hall