Texas League: Tulsa wins on Zaunich walkoff homer in ninth
BY BARRY LEWIS World Sports Writer
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
5/01/12 at 5:42 AM
Related story: Drillers update.
Mike Zuanich closed out the Tulsa Drillers' most successful April in the team's 36-season history with a bang on Monday afternoon.
Zuanich blasted a three-run walkoff homer in the ninth inning to lift the Drillers past the Springfield Cardinals 3-2 for a sweep of their four-game series at ONEOK Field.
The Drillers' third sellout crowd (7,862) in four days saw Tulsa (18-6) maintain a six-game lead over second-place Northwest Arkansas in the Texas League's North Division.
The Cardinals (8-16) suffered their 10th straight loss.
Tulsa's opening month had included everything except a ninth-inning comeback. April also had not included an RBI from Zuanich, who was hitting .167 in 60 at-bats when he came up with one out in the ninth.
Springfield pitcher Jorge Rondon (0-1) had gotten in trouble with a walk and hit batsman.
"It feels great to get the first one (homer) out of the way and more importantly, the win," Zuanich said.
Zuanich had a combined 20 homers and 60 RBIs with a .337 batting average in 88 games for Single-A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa last year.
"When you're struggling you do try to think back to when you were successful and get back to that mindframe," said Zuanich, a right-handed hitting outfielder. "I've been fighting every day to get back to that. I've watched a lot of video from when I was doing well last year."
Zuanich, with a 3-1 count, got a fastball down the middle from Rondon and launched a towering drive that landed in the glove of Drillers reliever Coty Woods in the Tulsa bullpen in far right-center, much to the loud delight of a school-kid dominated crowd.
"It's been interesting that it is a different player getting the big hit everyday," Drillers manager Duane Espy said. "Mike is batting .167 with no RBIs and then boom. It has been amazing that somebody does something every time we need them to do it.
"It's pretty incredible how it keeps happening. In Springfield last week, (Angelys) Nina was batting (.146) and then he hits a grand slam for us.
"When Mike was batting in the ninth, I was thinking, `Is this his moment?' "
The Drillers won the last three games of the series by identical 3-2 scores and had only a combined 16 hits in those games. They were held to just four by Springfield starter Michael Blazek and two relievers through eight innings Monday.
Bishop Kelley graduate Parker Frazier allowed one run and five hits over five innings to keep the Drillers in the game despite not having his best stuff.
"I didn't know what I was looking at from him, at times," Drillers pitching coach Dave Schuler said. "I thought he was throwing a backup changeup and pitching away too much early, and it turned out they were sliders. He threw maybe two quality sliders.
"Some days you just don't have it, so I told him you need to recognize it and do it another way. He had a good sinker. I told him he's mature enough now, that he has enough experience and enough savvy that he doesn't have to forcefeed his slider. He was able to keep the ball in the ballpark and he got some good defensive plays behind him."
The only run Frazier allowed was in the first inning on Kyle Conley's two-out single that drove in Oscar Taveras, who doubled. Taveras had an RBI single in the seventh off Cory Riordan to make it 2-0.
Will Harris and Mike Marbry (2-0) each pitched a perfect inning to give Tulsa a shot at a ninth-inning rally that capped a 7-1 homestand.
The Drillers play Arkansas at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday in North Little Rock to open at eight-game road trip.
7: 10 p.m. Tuesday
Radio: KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Drillers win on Zuanich's HR in 9th
Barry Lewis 918-581-8393
Tulsa pitcher Parker Frazier allowed one run and five hits over five innings Monday against Springfield. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Tulsa first basemen Kiel Roling tries to make a play on Springfield's Kyle Conley. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World