Red Wolves win rubber game, take series win at Troy

TROY, Ala. (ASU) — The Arkansas State Red Wolves broke a 4-4 tie with a run in the seventh and went on to defeat the Troy Trojans 5-4 Sunday afternoon at Pace-Riddle Field.  With the win, Arkansas State also won the Sun Belt Conference series between the two teams 2-1 and improved to 17-11 overall and 7-2 in SBC action.  The Red Wolves bounced back from a 7-6 loss in the Friday series opener to post a 16-8 victory Saturday and even the series at 1-1.  Sunday's win gave ASU its first-ever series victory over the Trojans (13-14, 3-6).

Arkansas State broke the 4-4 tie in the seventh when right fielder Collin Massanelli led off the inning with a single, moved to second base when center fielder Michael Faulkner walked, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt from first baseman Zach George and scored when third baseman Claude Johnson reached on a fielder's choice.

From there, relievers Brandon Farley and John Koch kept the Trojans off the scoreboard in the final three innings, with Koch earning his SBC-best sixth save of the season.

"When you look at the box score, you look at how we defended the field with no errors," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo.  "We made all the plays.  You also look at what we did on the mound with only two free bases, and that's pretty significant on a Sunday.  We were able to capitalize on one of their errors for some runs and when they tied it, we got the run back and that was essentially the ballgame. We turned it over to the back side of the bullpen, and Farley and Koch did a wonderful job for us."

Arkansas State jumped on the Trojans early, scoring once in the first on an RBI single from George before adding two more in the third.  Massanelli reached on a fielder's choice in the third, Faulkner singled to get aboard, and both scored when Johnson reached on a two-out error for the 3-0 ASU advantage.

A two-out RBI double in the sixth from catcher Ryan Roberts stretched the Red Wolves' advantage to 4-0, but the Trojans scored four times in the bottom of the inning to pull even.  First baseman Logan Pierce drove in Troy's first run with a double to left-center, followed by a two-run home run from third baseman Danny Collins, and a solo home run from left fielder Jo-El Bennett that tied the game at 4-4.

Junior Morgan Croft went to the mound in the sixth and picked up his second win of the weekend, relieving starter Cory Kyle, who pitched 5.1 shutout innings before giving up three runs in the sixth.  Kyle gave up the runs on four hits, with five strikeouts and two walks.  Croft worked two-thirds of an inning, giving up one run on one hit without walking or striking out a batter.  Farley struck out three while giving up twohits in two innings, and Koch did not allow a baserunner in the final inning, striking out the final batter he faced to end the game.

Johnson and George each went 2-for-4 with an RBI to lead ASU offensively, while Pierce went 2-for-3 with an RBI to lead Troy.  The Red Wolves out-hit the Trojans 9-7 on the day.

"We know every weekend is going to be a battle," said Raffo.  "Everyone in the conference knows that, so we have to prepare ourselves for another Sun Belt weekend coming up.  This is a good start to Sun Belt play, but at the same time, there is a lot of work to do."

The Red Wolves will host Louisiana-Monroe next weekend in a three-game SBC series that gets underway Friday, March 23 at 6:00 p.m.

Before hosting ULM, Arkansas State will return to action April 3-4 when the Red Wolves travel to Springfield, Mo. for a two-game midweek series at Missouri State.  Tuesday's game is scheduled to get underway at 6:30 p.m., with the Wednesday contest scheduled for 3:00 p.m.  Both games will be played at Hammons Field.