LAFAYETTE, La. (AStateRedWolves.com) — Junior center fielder Michael Faulkner broke a 5-5 tie with a two-run single in the seventh, then added what proved to be a needed insurance run in the ninth with an RBI single, and the Arkansas State Red Wolves held on to defeat the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns 8-7 Sunday afternoon at M.L."Tigue" Moore Field.
With the win, Arkansas State captured the Sun Belt Conference series victory, and improved to 5-1 in SBC action and 13-10 overall. The Red Wolves dropped the Friday series opener 9-2, but bounced back to even the count with a 6-4 victory in the Saturday contest. At 5-1 in league action, the Red Wolves remain for first place in the SBC standings following the weekend's play. The Ragin' Cajuns slipped to 13-10 overall and 3-3 in SBC action.
Arkansas State never trailed in the game, but the Cajuns managed to knot the score at 5-5 in the sixth before Faulkner's one-out single up the middle in the seventh put the Red Wolves on top to stay. Louisiana-Lafayette scored once in the bottom of the seventh to pull within a run at 7-6, but Faulkner's two-out single in the ninth drove in right fielder Collin Massanelli from second for what proved to be the winning run.
"Those were big hits, big moments that Michael was ready for," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "He is a veteran player, and obviously it showed up today."
"Louisiana-Lafayette is a very good club, they have good young players," added Raffo. "But I was proud of the way our team executed. ULL wasn't going to lay down at home and we knew that. Our guys just kept battling with them toe-to-toe. Today was almost like a championship fight. It went back-and-forth, with each team taking punches and giving punches, and finally we were able to get the last punch in."
Arkansas State wasted no time in getting on the board when Massanelli led off the game with a single, then scored on a two-out infield single from left fielder Logan Uxa for a quick 1-0 lead. Louisiana-Lafayette matched the effort in the bottom of the frame when right fielder Dylan Butler drove in a run from third when he grounded out to first base, tying the game at 1-1.
The Red Wolves added a pair in the second to regain the lead at 3-1. Catcher Ryan Roberts led off the inning with a single and eventually scored when Massanelli reached on a ULL error, and Massanelli came home on a double to left field from first baseman Zach George. The Cajuns answered with a run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single from shortstop Ryan Leonards to cut the ASU lead to 3-2 before an RBI groundout from second baseman Anthony Hecht in the fourth bumped the Red Wolves' lead to 4-2.
An A-State throwing error in the fourth led to another ULL run that pulled the Cajuns to within a single run, but an Uxa home run to right field in the sixth got the run back for ASU to make it 5-3.
ULL countered in the bottom of the sixth with a pair of runs to tie the game at 5-5, getting RBI singles from left fielder Daniel Nichols and center fielder Brian Bowman, but the Red Wolves answered again, this time with Faulkner's two-run single in the seventh to put ASU back on top, 7-5.
After ULL put runners at second and third with no outs in the bottom of the seventh, ASU reliever John Koch went to the mound and prevented one of the two runners from scoring before the Red Wolves could get out of the inning clinging to a 7-6lead.
Faulkner drove in the insurance run in the ninth with a run-scoring, two-out single up the middle after Massanelli reached on a fielder's choice and advanced to second on a ULL throwing error.
Afterretiring the first two batters in the ninth, Koch allowed one run before getting second baseman Jace Conrad to fly out to end the game. He worked the final 2.2 innings to earn his fourth save of the year. Koch gave up one run on four hits, striking out two and walking none.
Freshman Chandler Hawkins (1-1) worked one-third of an inning to get the win, giving up one run on one hit, with one strikeout and one walk. Senior starter Cory Kyle surrendered three runs on four hits in three innings of work, striking out two and walking four. Junior Seth McWilliams worked 2.2 innings in relief, giving up two runs on three hits, with no walks or strikeouts. Jordan Harrison (2-1) gave up three runs on two hits in three innings on the mound to take the loss for ULL. Harrison struck out two and walked three.
Uxa went 3-for-5 with two RBIs to lead ASU at the plate, while Faulkner, third baseman Claude Johnson, designated hitter Ryan Emery and shortstop Dustin Jones all had two hits. Nichols was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs to lead ULL.
The Red Wolves face a full slate of games in the upcoming week, hosting Southeast Missouri and Arkansas-Pine Bluff in a pair of midweek games, before traveling to Troy next weekend for a Sun Belt Conference weekend series against the Trojans. Arkansas State will get the week's action underway Tuesday, March 27 when SEMO visits Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field, then host UAPB in Wednesday's game. Both midweek games are scheduled to get underway at 6:30 p.m. The series opener at Troy is scheduled for Friday, March 30 at 6:00 p.m. Saturday's game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and the Sunday finale will get underway at 1:00 p.m.
- Left fielder Logan Uxa's sixth-inning home run in game three was his third of the season and ninth of his career.
- Junior Michael Faulkner, the nation's per-game stolen base leader heading into the weekend, stole his 19th base of the season in the first inning of game one. Faulkner is now 20-of-40 (.500) during his career at the plate against the Cajuns. Faulkner's sixth-inning triple in game two was his second of the season and eighth of his career. He finished the weekend series hitting .357 with a triple and six RBIs.
- With the win, ASU improved to 4-0 in weekend series action, defeating Evansville, South Dakota State, UALR and ULL.
- Arkansas State has now won 13 of its last 18 games against Louisiana-Lafayette.
- Junior starting pitcher Daniel Wright retired the first nine batters he faced, struck out a career-high nine batters and picked up his first win of the season inSaturday's 6-4 ASU victory. His nine strikeouts are the most for any ASU player in a game this season.
- Third baseman Claude Johnson hit .538 in the series against ULL. Johnson went 7-for-13 with two doubles and three runs scored. Johnson's four hits in Saturday's game ties the most for an ASU player in a single game this season.
- Shortstop Dustin Jones' fifth-inning double in game two was his first multiple-base hit of the season. Jones hit .714 (5-for-7) in the series with a double, an RBI, two runs scored and three sacrifices.
- Right fielder Kaleb Brown's eighth-inning triple in game two was his second of the year.
- Sophomore Zach George's first-inning home run in game one was his second of the season.
- Jacob Lee's career strikeout total now stands at 228, 23 short of the ASU career strikeout record of 251 set by Rusty Bourg in 1967-70. Lee retired 11 consecutive Ragin' Cajuns in the first through the fifth inning.
- Saturday's 6-4 victory over the Cajuns was the Red Wolves' first true road victory of the season. Arkansas State defeated Dayton 9-3 March 9 on a neutral field at Clarksville, Tenn. for what was previously its only victory away from Jonesboro.
- Sophomore Bradley Wallace earned his first save of the season in Saturday's 6-4 victory, working the final 2.1 innings. The save was the third of Wallace's career