Jonesboro (ASU) - The Arkansas State Red Wolves (23-17,12-6) took a 6-5 lead into the final inning of their series-deciding game three against South Alabama, but the Jaguars (28-16, 15-6) scored twice in the top of the ninth to rally for a 7-6 victory over A-State Sunday afternoon at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field.
The Red Wolves went into the day in sole possession of first place in the Sun Belt Conference after the two teams split a Saturday double-header, but South Alabama took the lead in the conference race with the win. Arkansas State falls into a second-place tie with next weekend's opponent, Florida Atlantic, both with a league winning percentage of .667.
South Alabama shortstop Brandon Brown reached in the ninth with a leadoff single and scored to tie the game at 6-6 when designated hitter Adam Heisler sent an RBI single up the middle of the ASU defense. Heisler advanced to third on a single from second baseman Zach Grichor, before scoring what proved to be the winning run on a sacrifice fly from third baseman Jake Overstreet.
"Obviously, South Alabama scored two runs in the ninth, but the game was played earlier than that for us," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "With the amount of free bases we gave them, that really hurt us, especially in the fifth inning. We've got to do a better job of finishing games, but South Alabama is an excellent club."
After South Alabama tied the game at 2-2 with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth, Arkansas State came up big in the bottom half of the inning, scoring four runs on six hits to take a 6-2 advantage. South Alabama used a pair of singles to lead off the fifth, then took advantage of two walks, a hit batsman and a sacrifice fly from Grichor to score three runs, cutting the ASU lead to 6-5.
Neither team was able to score until the Jaguars scored twice in the final inning to earn the series victory.
The Red Wolves took a 2-0 lead in the first when center fielder Michael Faulkner singled and eventually scored on a wild pitch, followed by an RBI double from first baseman Murray Watts. A two-run single from shortstop Jordan Kimball, coupled with RBI singles from Faulkner and right fielder Cody Pace gave Arkansas State the 6-2 lead in the fourth.
Watts went 3-for-5 with an RBI on the afternoon to lead ASU at the plate and finished the three-game series 9-for-15 (.600) with three doubles, two runs scored and five RBIs. Heisler was 3-for-5 with three runs driven in to lead the Jags.
D.D. Hanks went the distance on the mound for South Alabama to pick up the win and improve to 9-2 on the season. Hanks gave up the six ASU runs on 13 hits, with five strikeouts and three walks. Freshman John Koch (1-3) took the loss for Arkansas State. Koch worked the final two innings, giving up two runs on three hits, with three strikeouts and a walk.
The Red Wolves will return to action next weekend when they travel to Boca Raton, Fla. for their three-game Sun Belt Conference series against FAU. The Red Wolves and Owls will get the series underway Friday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m.