ASU baseball tops Bradley 10-5 in season opener

JONESBORO, Ark. ( — The Arkansas State baseball team used a late rally to claim a 10-5 victory over Bradley in both team's season opener Friday night at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field, and the Red Wolves claimed their 23rd straight win in home openers dating back to the 1991 season.

A-State, which broke the school record for strikeouts in a game with 19, scored four runs in the seventh inning to erase a 5-3 deficit and then tacked on three insurance runs in the eighth to complete the comeback victory.  Bradley finished with two more hits than ASU, but the Red Wolves posted five of their 10 hits in the seventh and eighth while not allowing the Braves to reach base over the final three innings.

John Koch, Bradley Wallace and Levi Shordon combined to break ASU's strikeout record, which was previously set at 18 against Memphis in 1995 and Kansas State in 1960.  Koch was responsible for a career-high 11, winning-pitcher Wallace accounted for seven and Shordon closed the game in the ninth inning with one strikeout.

"It was good to play outside competition and important to see our club go up against someone other than ourselves," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo.  "I don't think either starting pitcher was as sharp early as they wanted to be, but both settled in just a little bit.  I thought John had some big moments early in the game he had to work through."

ASU's offensive attack was led by Kaleb Brown with a team-high three hits and Stuart Levy with a team-best three RBI.  Six different ASU batters posted at least one hit, including Ryan Emery with two doubles.

The Braves struck first with one run in the top of the first, but ASU countered with three in the bottom half of the inning.  Bradley added another run in the second and fourth to tie the game before taking a 5-3 advantage in the sixth with its final two runs of the games.

The Red Wolves reclaimed the lead in the seventh inning when Logan Uxa drove home Zach George and Emery on a one-out double to right field that made the score 7-5.  ASU scored two of their three runs in the eighth off wild pitches and Emery picked up his second RBI later in the inning to set the final score.

"It's important to have guys see the ball and make some barrel contact and fortunately we had some hits drop in," Raffo said.  "It was a big momentum shift in the seventh when we scored four and Bradley (Wallace) goes 1-2-3 in the seventh and eighth - that obviously made a big difference in the game."

With the victory, the Red Wolves improved to 34-33 all-time in season openers and improved to 6-3 in their all-time series against the Braves.

The Red Wolves and Braves will continue their three-game series Saturday at 2 p.m. at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field.