After a rain delay of over an hour, the Tulsa Drillers and Midland RockHounds battled in game five of the Texas League Championship series Sunday night at ONEOK Field.
A crowd of 2,136 watched as Midland cruised to a 1-0 win, to capture the team’s fourth consecutive title.
Midland scored an unearned run in the first inning to take an early 1-0 lead, and that was all that was needed in this one. Tulsa’s starting pitcher Dennis Santana worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the fifth inning to keep the RockHounds from adding to their lead.
However, the Drillers bats were silenced by some superb pitching by the RockHounds. Tulsa only managed 5 hits in the game, and committed two errors. Midland totaled nine hits and one error.
Tulsa’s only bright spot at the plate was the hitting of Texas League batting champ Matt Beaty who was three-for-four in the game.
This was the first time since 2014 that the Tulsa Drillers advanced to the Texas League Championship series. That year, Tulsa lost to the Midland RockHounds 3 games to 2. Midland went on to win titles in 2015 and 2016, as well.
Tulsa won the first two games of the best-of-five series in Midland, while the RockHounds won games three and four in Tulsa, forcing a game five on Sunday.
Tulsa’s 20-year drought without a Texas League Championship is currently the longest in the league. The last time the Drillers won a Texas League title was 1998, when they defeated the Wichita Wranglers 4 games to 3. The Drillers also won Texas League championships in 1982 and 1988, beating El Paso in both of those series.
It was a dramatic turnaround for the Tulsa Drillers midway through the season, and all of it was predicated by a managerial change. Former Drillers manager Ryan Garko left the team halfway through his second season in Tulsa, to take the head coach position at University of the Pacific, and he was replaced by former college coach and Dodger scout, Scott Hennessey.
When Hennessey took over the team in late July, the Drillers record was 50-50, and the team had failed to win the first half division title. However, from that point to the end of the season, Hennessey led the team to a 32-18 record and a second half North Division title. Tulsa beat Northwest Arkansas in a five-game playoff series to advance to the Championship.