A change of scenery from Amarillo to Tulsa made a huge difference in the script for the Texas League Championship Series.
In the first two games of the best-of-5 series, Tulsa and Amarillo combined to hit 16 home runs at cozy Hodgetown, 13 of those by the Drillers.
Game 3 Friday night at ONEOK Field was more like what one would expect of a championship series — a pitchers’ duel featuring Amarillo’s Kyle Lloyd and Tulsa’s Markus Solbach.
Solbach pitched the Drillers to a 2-0 victory before a crowd of 3,206, bringing Tulsa to within one win of its second consecutive league championship.
Solbach (1-0), a right-hander, pitched eight brilliant innings, allowing four hits, striking out six and walking none.
Amarillo right-hander Lloyd (0-1) nearly matched Solbach, allowing the two runs on four hits, striking out six and walking two over seven innings.
The Sod Poodles threatened in the sixth with two-out singles by Taylor Trammell and Ivan Castillo, but Solbach got Edward Olivares to ground out to end the inning.
Nolan Long relieved Solbach to start the ninth and got two quick outs before running into a spot of trouble. Castillo walked on four pitches and Owen Miller singled. But Luis Torrens popped out to second baseman Omar Estevez to end the game.
Tulsa’s runs did come via a home run — Connor Wong’s two-run blast to left field in the sixth inning.
Jeter Downs set the table for Wong’s heroics when he laced a two-out single to center, stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Wong and Donovan Casey, who had two of Tulsa’s four hits, have a hit in all eight postseason games. Casey is batting .615 in the playoffs, Wong .500.
The two games in Texas lasted as long as a college football game, but Game 3 was wrapped up in a tidy 2 hours, 15 minutes.
The Drillers can wrap up the title with a win Saturday night in Game 4. Tulsa hasn’t won a pennant on its home field since 1963, when the Oilers defeated the San Antonio Bullets in Game 4 at Oiler Park (later named Driller Park).
Tulsa locked up the 2018 championship in San Antonio against the franchise that now is in Amarillo.