Tulsa Drillers outfielder Cody Thomas would not again be denied a game-changing home run in the ninth inning Wednesday night.
Thomas’ three-run, two-out blast gave the Drillers a 5-4 victory over the Springfield Cardinals at ONEOK Field.
"When the game is on the line, he relaxes and enjoys the moment," Drillers manager Scott Hennessey said. "In those situations, he seems to either hit it out or they catch it when it goes over the fence, but tonight nobody could catch that. He relaxes and enjoys the moment. He got two strikes, didn’t panic and put a good swing on the ball."
Thomas is tied for second in the Texas League with 17 homers, but that was his first in August, snapping a 12-game drought.
With the Drillers down 4-1 in the ninth, Connor Wong started the two-out rally off Mitchell Osnowitz (1-1) with a homer over the right-field wall. Chris Parmelee followed with an opposite-field double and Donovan Casey walked.
"Connor Wong doesn’t try to do too much, goes the other way, and it’s been a while since Parmelee had hit a ball down the left-field line last time, he's been working on that," Hennessey said. "And one of the best ABs of the night was Donovan Casey's walk. They just kept saying pass the torch."
And that brought up Thomas, the former University of Oklahoma quarterback who ended the game with a towering blast over the right-field wall, igniting a massive celebration by the Drillers.
On Monday night, Thomas was robbed of a tying homer with two outs in the ninth by Springfield’s Justin Toerner, who went over the right-field wall and fell into the Drillers bullpen to make the catch. That ended up as ESPN SportsCenter’s Play of the Day.
On July 10, Toerner did the same thing to Thomas to end a Drillers ninth-inning rally at ONEOK Field.
But this time, Thomas hit a shot well over 400 feet, that not even Toerner could have caught, even if he had been in the game.
Toerner was taken out after he was shaken up following another incredible catch in the second inning in which he reached high and crashed into the center-field wall to rob Casey.
The Drillers (66-55 overall, 29-23 second half) cut Arkansas’ lead to one game in the Texas League North Division with 18 remaining.
Until Thomas’ blast, it looked like another former college baseball standout from the state, Cardinals infielder Yariel Gonzalez, was going to be the hero as he continued to produce big hits in his return to Oklahoma.
Gonzalez socked a tiebreaking two-run homer off Yordy Cabrera in the eighth that gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead.
Gonzalez, who is from Puerto Rico, signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as a non-drafted free agent after four years of college baseball in Oklahoma. He spent his first two seasons at Connors State, then one each at Oklahoma Baptist and USAO.
Gonzalez, who is batting .274 with 10 homers and 39 RBIs in 49 games for Double-A Springfield (54-68, 24-28), also played in seven games for Triple-A Memphis this season. He had three hits for Memphis, but two of them were homers — both in wins at Oklahoma City.
With the score tied at 1 in the eighth, the switch-hitting Gonzalez sent a blast over the right-field wall off right-hander Yordy Cabrera. That followed Zach Kirtley’s one-out single on a pop-up that was misplayed in center field.
Former Drillers outfielder Johan Mieses homered off Stetson Allie (1-0) in the ninth to increase Springfield’s lead to 4-1, but it didn’t provide enough insurance for the Cardinals as the Drillers won for only the third time this season at home after trailing going into the ninth.
"A great win for the team," Hennessey said. "It's a momentum builder. These are the games you have to win in August to get into the playoffs."