John F. Kennedy was president and Bud Wilkinson was the University of Oklahoma’s head football coach when a Tulsa pro baseball team last won a pennant on its home field.
The Tulsa Drillers need two wins this weekend to end a 56-year drought. Tulsa will host the Amarillo Sod Poodles for the remainder of the Texas League Championship Series that is tied at one win apiece as it shifts to ONEOK Field for Game 3 at 7:05 p.m. Friday.
Game 4 will be at 7:05 p.m. Saturday and Game 5, if needed, will be at 1:05 p.m. Sunday.
Tulsa’s last pennant clincher on its home field came on Sept. 19, 1963, when the Oilers defeated the San Antonio Bullets 4-1 in Game 4 as Joe “Speedo” Patterson had the go-ahead hit at Oiler Park (later named Driller Park). Since then, Tulsa teams have won seven pennants — all on the road. Last year, Tulsa clinched in San Antonio against the franchise that is now in Amarillo.
The Drillers only have a chance in odd-numbered years to win a pennant at home as South teams host the final games in the TLCS in even-numbered years.
Two years ago, the Drillers had a chance to win the pennant at ONEOK Field, coming home from Midland with a 2-0 lead, but the RockHounds won all three games in Tulsa to capture their fourth consecutive pennant.
Tulsa is coming home tied in the series with Amarillo after an 18-9 win Wednesday night. There were 11 home runs in the game, including nine by the Drillers, setting an all-time Tulsa pro record for any game. The Drillers set a scoring record for any Tulsa postseason game. Jeter Downs, who homered on the first pitch of the game, became the first Tulsa player to hit three homers in a playoff game. All eight of his Drillers homers have come against Amarillo.
“That will go down as one of the most memorable games in Tulsa baseball history,” Drillers president/general manager Mike Melega said. “To give up eight runs in the first inning and win by nine with the season on the line is hard to fathom. What a game.”
Drillers manager Scott Hennessey has praised his team all year for never giving up and that was illustrated in the first two games. Tulsa battled from a 5-1 deficit to tie the opener Tuesday before Amarillo scored seven in the eighth inning for a 13-6 win.
Game 3 features a matchup of two hot pitchers. Tulsa’s Markus Solbach is 6-1 in eight starts since joining the Drillers in late July. His only loss, however, came on Aug. 22 when he allowed nine earned runs in 2⅓ innings against Amarillo at ONEOK Field. But Solbach came back in his next start with a win at Amarillo.
Amarillo’s pitcher will be Kyle Lloyd, who is 6-2 in his past nine starts, but one of those losses was against Tulsa when he was tagged for nine earned runs and six homers in seven innings of a loss on Aug. 29 at Amarillo. Lloyd has lost both his starts against Tulsa this season.