New Orleans, LA (ASU) - The Arkansas State Red Wolves (14-9, 5-3) jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, then held off a pair of late-inning New Orleans rallies for a 7-6 Sun Belt Conference victory Saturday afternoon at Maestri Field. With the win, Arkansas State clinched the weekend series with the Privateers after posting a 14-8 victory in the Friday night opener. The series victory was the first for Arkansas State over New Orleans since 2005, and the first in New Orleans since 1995.
The Red Wolves had to hold on in the ninth when New Orleans (6-14, 1-7) loaded the bases with one out, but freshman John Koch went to the mound and turned back the Privateers, allowing just a single run to earn his first career save.
"Koch is a puppy, but he is starting to grow up," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "We've put him into some situations that not a lot of freshmen get into right away. He's got a swing-and-miss pitch and that is what we felt like we needed. We are very pleased with his effort."
Just as they did in the Friday opener, the Red Wolves jumped out to a 4-0 lead in their first at-bat. Arkansas State sent nine batters to the plate in the opening frame, getting RBI singles from third baseman Jordan Castaldo and designated hitter Ryan Emery to score its first two runs. Catcher Kyle DeGrace hugged the left field line with a two-run single to make it 4-0, ASU.
I am pleased with the start we had," Raffo added. "The four-run inning was good because it let us settle in a little bit. They made a run at us, but we chipped away to get to seven and that was important. You've got to score runs here at New Orleans. They can swing the bat and we know that. Fortunately, we came out on top here today."
The Red Wolves tacked on another run in the third when first baseman Murray Watts doubled to right field and eventually scored on a wild pitch to extend the ASU lead to 5-0, before New Orleans put three runs on the board in the fourth.
Center fielder Mike Petello drove in the first Privateer run with a single to left field, a sacrifice fly from left fielder Rodarrick Jones sent home the second run and an RBI single from catcher Tyler Sanford cut the Arkansas State lead to 5-3.
A-State got one of the runs back in the fifth when Watts sent home a run with a sacrifice fly, but the Privateers pulled within a run with two runs in the seventh. Shortstop Johnny Thomas got the inning started with a solo home run for New Orleans, and the second Privateer run of the frame scored on an ASU throwing error, cutting the Red Wolves advantage to 6-5.
The Red Wolves added an insurance run in the eighth to go up 7-5 when Emery singled to lead off the inning, moved to third on a base hit from DeGrace and scored on a ground-out from shortstop Jordan Kimball.
The Privateers used base hits from Jones and Thomas to put runners at first and second with one out in the bottom of the eighth, but reliever Andres Caceres got right fielder Ryan Eden to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the UNO threat.
Castaldo went 3-for-5 with an RBI, and DeGrace was 2-for-4 with a pair of runs driven in lead ASU at the plate. Senior starter Ross Humes picked up the win for ASU to improve to 3-1 on the season. Humes gave up three runs on five hits with a pair of strikeouts and one walk.
Senior Jim McGonigle (2-1) took the loss for UNO, giving up seven runs on 11 hits. McGonigle struck out three batters and walked one. Church was 3-for-5 to lead New Orleans at the plate.
The Red Wolves will go for the sweep when the series wraps up Sunday at 1:00 p.m.