Jonesboro (ASU) - Second baseman Giovanni Garcia launched a solo home run in the eighth inning to pull Arkansas State into a 5-5 tie with Wisconsin-Milwaukee, then delivered a two-out single in the ninth to send home the winning run and give the Red Wolves (3-1) a 6-5 victory over the Panthers (0-1) Friday night at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field.
"It was pleasing to see our team fight," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "It was a night when we were behind from the get-go and we were fighting, scratching and clawing all the way until the eighth inning. It was fun to see our guys compete, fight and in the end, prevail."
"Gio is a senior and obviously you want seniors to do well," added Raffo. "Todd Baumgartner got on with a swinging bunt with two strikes, then Murray Watts gets on with a base hit with two strikes. Gio then came through with the two-out hit with two strikes. Those guys were just battling and got a great win for the team."
Freshman pitcher John Koch (1-0) earned the win for the Red Wolves, taking the mound in the sixth inning and striking out eight of the 12 batters he faced, including the final six. Koch gave up two hits without surrendering a run or walking a Panther batter.
"John did a very good job in the strike zone," added Raffo. "Not only his fastball, but his off-speed pitches were thrown for strikes. He is very difficult to hit when he does that and he did a tremendous job of keeping us in the ballgame and gave our offense a chance to catch up."
Arkansas State battled from behind the entire night. The Panthers picked up an unearned run in the first when ASU starter Andy Ferguson struck out UWM first baseman Ben Long for what would have been the third out of the inning, but Long reached on a passed ball and eventually scored to give Milwaukee the early 1-0 lead.
The Panthers added two more in the fourth before ASU got on the board in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single from freshman outfielder Michael Faulkner. Milwaukee answered the run with a score in the top of the fifth to take a 4-1 lead, but the Red Wolves put up three runs in the bottom of the inning to tie the game at 4-4.
Baumgartner, freshman designated hitter Ryan Emery and junior third baseman Jordan Castaldo all came through with RBI doubles in the fifth to send home the Red Wolves three runs in the inning.
Milwaukee regained the lead at 5-4 when left fielder Tim Patzman tripled to lead off the sixth, and scored on a base hit from right fielder Jonathan Capasso. The one-run lead held until Garcia's home run in the bottom of the eighth tied the score at 5-5.
Sophomore Cameron Amsrud took the loss for the Panthers, giving up one run on three hits with a pair of strikeouts in 1.2 innings of work. UWM starter Kyle Schmidt worked 6.2 innings, giving up four runs on four hits while striking out five and walking three. Schmidt threw 113 pitches on the night.
Baumgartner, Emery, Garcia and Faulkner all had two hits to lead Arkansas State at the plate, with Garcia driving in two runs on the night. Capasso led UWM with two hits and two RBIs.
The four-game series will resume Saturday with a double-header beginning at 1:00 p.m.