Jonesboro (ASU) - Arkansas State sophomore Jacob Lee struck out eight Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in six and two-thirds innings of work to lead the Red Wolves (18-10, 8-4) to a 3-1 victory over 18th-ranked WKU (22-7, 7-2) Sunday afternoon at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field.
Lee allowed just five hits on the afternoon, giving up the one run in the third when he walked in the Hilltoppers' only score of the day. Arkansas State responded with three two-out runs in the bottom of the inning that proved to be all the Red Wolves would need to get the win.
With the win, Arkansas State claimed the Sun Belt Conference series victory over the Hilltoppers, 2-1. The Red Wolves bounced back from a 4-3 loss in Friday's series-opener to post a 6-4 win in Saturday's game two, before clinching the series in Sunday's finale.
Western Kentucky went into the series averaging 9.5 runs per game, but the Arkansas State pitching staff was solid all weekend, holding the Hilltoppers to just nine runs in the entire series.
"I am very proud of this team, especially after taking the tough loss Friday night," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "We came out yesterday and came from behind, then today with the series tied, we were just kind of grinding through the game to get the win."
"When we answered their score with three in the bottom of the inning, and then Jacob went out and put up a zero in the fourth, that really helped our team as the game went on," added Raffo. "He got out of some jams, and then Sam Jew came in and threw strikes. Sam made some quality pitches with runners on base."
Jew came on to work the final two and one-thirds innings, giving up no runs on two hits with strikeout and a walk. He faced 10 batters on the day, retiring the final five he faced to earn his first career save.
Arkansas State scored in the third when right fielder Todd Baumgartner sent an RBI double into right field, followed by a two-run single from third baseman Murray Watts. Third baseman Jordan Castaldo led ASU at the plate, going 3-for-3, while shortstop Jordan Kimball was 2-for-4.
Hilltopper shortstop Matt Payton went 3-for-5 to lead the Hilltoppers. Starter Tanner Perkins took the loss on the mound for Western Kentucky, giving up all three of ASU's third-inning runs. Perkins worked four innings on the afternoon, striking out two and walking two while giving up eight hits.
The Red Wolves will be back in action when they take on Tennessee-Martin in a pair of midweek games Tuesday and Wednesday. Arkansas State will travel to Martin for Tuesday's game, before the Skyhawks return the favor with a trip to Jonesboro for Wednesday's matchup. Both games are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.