Jonesboro (ASU) - Arkansas State (25-20, 13-9) took a 6-0 lead into the top of the eighth inning, but it took a sacrifice fly from right fielder Todd Baumgartner in the bottom of the 10th to give the Red Wolves an 8-7 victory over the Florida International Golden Panthers (26-19, 12-10) Friday night at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field.
Junior Andy Ferguson was outstanding on the mound for the Red Wolves. Ferguson held FIU, the Sun Belt's top-hitting team at .335 on the year, to no runs on just one hit through the first seven innings. FIU first baseman Tim Jobe spoiled the shutout for Ferguson when he homered to lead off the eighth for the Panthers, sparking a five-run inning that saw FIU close to within a run at 6-5.
Arkansas State first baseman Murray Watts belted an opposite-field home run in the bottom of the eighth to give the Red Wolves a two-run cushion, but FIU scored twice in the ninth to send the game into extra innings tied at 7-7.
Pinch-hitter Ryan Emery doubled to lead off for the Red Wolves in the bottom of the 10th, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from center fielder Michael Faulkner and scored when Baumgartner sacrificed to center field to end the game.
"It's easy when things don't go right to give in," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "We've talked about not giving in, and fortunately for us, we were either ahead or tied all the way. And then we had the opportunity playing at home to get the win at the end."
"It has got to be a team effort for us," added Raffo. "We might not have the first, second or third round picks on our team, but we have some guys that have heart and want to compete, and want to get better in this conference."
The Red Wolves put the first run on the board when second baseman Giovanni Garcia hit a solo home run in the fourth, and Garcia's RBI double in the fifth gave ASU a 2-0 advantage. The Red Wolves came up big in the sixth, scoring three runs to go up 5-0. A sacrifice fly from shortstop Jordan Kimball, along with RBI singles from Watts and third baseman Zach Maggio did the damage for ASU in the sixth, and an RBI double from left fielder Cody Pace in the seventh pushed the A-State lead to 7-0 before FIU began to rally.
Jobe's home run ignited the five-run eighth inning for FIU, which scored its final four runs of the frame with two outs on the board. FIU second baseman Garrett Wittels extended his nation-leading hit streak to 40 games in the eighth when he tripled to drive in a run, and an RBI triple from center fielder Pablo Bermudez, along with a sacrifice fly from left fielder Jabari Henry plated two runs for the Golden Panthers in the ninth to send the game into the extra inning.
Pace and senior catcher Kyle DeGrace both had three hits to lead ASU, with Baumgartner, Watts, Garcia and designated hitter Jordan Castaldo all adding two hits. Jobe, Wittels, third baseman Jeremy Patton and second baseman Alfonso Raiko all had two hits to pace FIU, which had 12 of its 13 hits in the final four innings.
Junior Drew Benes (2-1) picked up the win for Arkansas State, going one and one-thirds innings and giving up no runs on just one hit, with one walk and no strikeouts. Ferguson worked seven innings, giving up two runs on three hits, while striking out six and walking three. Eric Berkowitz (3-4) took the loss for FIU, surrendering two runs on two hits in two and two-thirds innings of work. Berkowitz struck out three and walked one.
The Red Wolves will try to wrap up the series victory Saturday when the two teams meet in a 3:00 p.m. game that will be televised by Cox Sports Television and Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast.