JONESBORO, Ark. (AStateRedWolves.com) — The Arkansas State Red Wolves used a five-run fifth inning to overcome a 2-1 deficit and went on to defeat the Florida International Golden Panthers 7-4 Friday night in the Sun Belt Conference series opener between the two teams at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field.
With two outs on the board in the fifth, third baseman Zach George delivered a two-run double to left center that gave ASU a 3-2 advantage. Later in the inning, designated hitter Ryan Emery belted a three-run double to center field to increase the Red Wolves' advantage to 6-2.
Senior Jacob Lee pitched ASU to the victory, giving up two runs on four hits in seven innings of work. Lee struck out five batters on the night while walking two to improve to 7-1 on the season.
With the win, ASU improved to 28-19 overall and 16-7 in SBC action. The victory, coupled with a 4-1 UALR win over Florida Atlantic Friday night, moved the Red Wolves into a first-place tie with FAU with five league games remaining. FIU dropped to 29-21 overall and 13-12 in SBC play.
"We had some clutch at-bats in the middle of the game that kind of broke it open," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "We had a big two-out, base-clearing double that kind of broke it a little for us from Emery that really helped. He found some barrel and in a nutshell, that was the big blow.
"Another quality start from Jacob Lee," added Raffo. "I am proud of his effort and it was fantastic the way he finished here at home. We knew that they could score runs. They are a very good offensive club, very good at the top of the order and make you work in the bottom."
Arkansas State took a 1-0 lead in the third when catcher Stuart Levy singled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly from Michael Faulkner.
FIU got its first hit of the night when second baseman T.J. Shantz hit a solo home run with one out in the fifth, and the Panthers went up 2-1 later in the frame when catcher Aramis Garcia doubled down the left field line to drive in a run.
Arkansas State answered with five runs in the bottom of the inning, then added another to make it 7-2 when left fielder Logan Uxa drew a bases-loaded walk in the sixth.
FIU scored twice in the eighth to cut the ASU lead to 7-4, but A-State junior John Koch went to the mound in the ninth and retired the Panthers 1-2-3 to earn his school-record 10th save of the year.
Arkansas State out-hit the Panthers 7-5 on the night, with Levy going 2-for-3 with three runs scored to lead the Red Wolves. Garcia was 1-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored to lead FIU.
Starter Eddy Pidermann (8-2) took the loss on the mound for Florida International, giving up six runs on six hits, with four walks and a pair of strikeouts.
The Red Wolves and Panthers will resume the series Saturday at 2:00 p.m. The starting time for Saturday's game was changed from 4:00 p.m. due to the rain forecast for the Jonesboro area tomorrow.