JONESBORO, Ar - The Arkansas State Red Wolves (11-13, 6-6 SBC) shook off an early two-run deficit and bounced back to post a 7-2 victory over the Jaguars of South Alabama (11-15, 2-7 SBC) in the deciding game of a Sun Belt Conference series at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field.
With Sunday's win, ASU captured the series 2-1 and won their first series against South Alabama since the 2005 season.
After giving up two runs in a rough first inning, ASU freshman Jacob Lee (1-1) shut out the Jags over the next five innings to pick up the win in his first Sun Belt Conference start. With the Red Wolves clinging to a 3-2 lead, senior Chris Bullington worked the final three innings and retired all nine batters he faced to earn the save.
Lee walked the first two batters he faced and an ASU error allowed the first South Alabama run to score. With runners at second and third, Lee got Jaguar first baseman Ryan Bohanan to ground into a double-play that sent home a run but also put the first two outs on the board, and the Red Wolves got out of the inning with no further damage.
Arkansas State scored one run in the third, fourth and fifth innings to wipe out the South Alabama lead and go ahead 3-2, then added a run in the seventh and three in the eighth to build the five-run cushion.
"It was a waning moment in the first inning when Jacob Lee was really struggling," said ASU Head Coach Tommy Raffo. "He got a big double play ball which really, really helped. I think that might have been the biggest play of the game, believe it or not. They only scored two and did not get the big inning. It kept us in the game and then we were able to chip away."
Arkansas State designated hitter Murray Watts drew a bases-loaded walk off of Jaguar starter Brandon Sage to put the Red Wolves on the scoreboard in the third, and ASU tied the game at 2-2 in the fourth when catcher Kyle DeGrace sent an RBI single into left-center field. A sacrificed bunt from second baseman Giovanni Garcia coupled with a South Alabama error in the fifth put Arkansas State on top 3-2.
A sacrifice fly from shortstop Jordan Kimball in the seventh bumped the ASU lead to 4-2, and an RBI double from Watts and a run-scoring single from first baseman Brandon Eller stretched the Red Wolves' lead to 6-2 in the eighth. Arkansas State picked up its final run when Watts scored from third when Garcia hit into a double-play later in the eighth.
Bullington did not allow a baserunner in the final three innings to deny South Alabama any chance of a rally.
"Bully is a mainstay," said Raffo. "He does a good job holding the running game. He's going to be in the strike zone, and that's one of the big things we talked about going into the seventh - who was the guy to match up against them. It was tight game, and we felt like he was the best match. He'd be able to throw all his pitches for strikes, and when he does, he can be difficult to hit."
Lee finished with three strikeouts against five walks and five hits in picking up the win. Bullington struck out one in earning his fifth career save.
Sage (1-4) took the loss for South Alabama, giving up three runs on five hits, with seven strikeouts and three walks in five innings on the mound.
DeGrace went 2-for-3 with an RBI and Watts was 2-for-4 with two runs driven in to lead ASU at the plate, while shortstop Derek O'Reilly was 2-for-3 to lead the Jags.
With the win and last week's SBC win at Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas State posted its first consecutive SBC victories since closing out the 2007 season with wins over ULM and UALR.
The Red Wolves will be back in action Monday when they travel to Oxford, Miss. to face the 14th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels in a 6:30 p.m. game.