Jonesboro (ASU) – Junior third baseman Jordan Castaldo sent a one-out single through the right side in the bottom of the 10th inning to drive in the winning run and give the Arkansas State Red Wolves (12-6, 3-1) a 4-3 victory over the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (11-6, 2-2) in the opening game of a Sun Belt Conference series Friday night at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field.
Junior starter Andy Ferguson went eight and two-thirds innings against the preseason league favorite, holding the Blue Raiders to two earned runs on nine hits with seven strikeouts, but a two-out, two-strike single from designated hitter Justin Guidry drove in the tying run for MTSU in the ninth to force the extra inning. Ferguson left the mound after throwing a season-high 126 pitches and walking just one batter on the night
Freshman Daniel Wright came on in the ninth and worked one and one-thirds innings without giving up a hit to earn the win for the Red Wolves.
"I am very proud of our effort tonight," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "We came back home after six games on the road and worked hard to get this win. We faced one of the best pitchers tonight in (MTSU starter) Kenneth Roberts and we faced one of the best lineups in the Sun Belt."
"Andy gave us a chance to win the game," added Raffo. "Obviously, when we were one pitch away we wanted him to get the win. But once they tied it, we had to make a move. Our guys were stubborn tonight. Stubborn enough to stay with it and not give in, and the end result was positive."
Middle Tennessee took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on an RBI single from first baseman Blake McDade, but Arkansas State answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning and one in the fifth to go up 3-1.
A two-run single from catcher Kyle DeGrace put the Red Wolves on the scoreboard in the fourth, and a double down the left field line from second baseman Giovanni Garcia drove in ASU's fifth inning run for the 3-1 advantage. With the double, Garcia extended his team-high hit streak to 13 games.
Middle Tennessee pulled within a run on a sacrifice fly from shortstop Ryan Ford in the eighth, before Guidry's single in the ninth tied the game at 3-3.
A leadoff single from right fielder Todd Baumgartner got the 10th inning going for the Red Wolves. Baumgartner moved to second on a single from first baseman Murray Watts and advanced to third when designated hitter Danny Riemenschneider reached on a fielder's choice. Baumgartner crossed the plate for the winning run when Castaldo's hit skipped though the infield and into right field.
Castaldo was 2-for-4 with an RBI, and Baumgartner also went 2-for-4 to lead the Red Wolves at the plate. Guidry and McDade each went 3-for-4 with an RBI to lead the Blue Raiders.
Roberts worked eight and one-thirds innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on eight hits with four strikeouts and three walks. He threw 121 pitches on the night, before giving way to senior Kevin Whittaker (1-2) who took the loss after giving up the one run in the 10th. Whittaker surrendered three hits without a walk or a strikeout.
Due to the inclement weather forecast for Sunday, the two teams will wrap up the series with a Saturday double-header beginning at 1:00 p.m. The second half of Saturday's double-header will begin approximately 30 minutes following the conclusion of game one.