LAFAYETTE, La. (AStateRedWolves.com) — Arkansas State scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning, but fell one short of completing the comeback in a 5-4 loss to Florida Atlantic Saturday morning in the Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship.
The Red Wolves (28-31) trailed 5-2 going into the last inning but started a rally against All-Sun Belt Conference First-Team closer Hugh Adams when Alex Potts led off the inning with a single and Dustin Jones followed with a double to put runners on second and third with no outs in the inning.
Kevin Fitzpatrick followed with a single the left side to score Potts and Ryan Emery brought in Jones with a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 5-4. Fitzpatrick also advanced on the play and move himself into scoring position on the fly out.
After a Stuart Levy walk, Ryan Roberts singled to left field but Fitzpatrick was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on the play for the second out of the inning. Logan Uxa was then robbed of a hit when FAU (38-20) first baseman Mark Nelson fell down when trying field the ball but collected himself and touched the bag for the final out of the game.
The Red Wolves scored two runs in the top of the second inning to take a 2-1 lead when Emery and Levy drove in a pair of runs in back-to-back at-bats for ASU. Potts led off the inning with a single and Jones moved him over with a sacrifice bunt. Fitzpatrick followed with a single to put runners on the corners and Emery followed with his first RBI of the tournament to tie the score. Levy followed with an RBI sacrifice fly that scored Fitzpatrick from third to put Arkansas State in front 2-1.
A-State looked to add to its lead in the fourth inning after Logan Uxa doubled to start the inning and took third base on a dropped third strike by the FAU catcher when Derek Birginske struck out for the first out of the frame. However, the Red Wolves failed to get the ball out of the infield in the next two at-bats.
FAU scored the game's first inning in the bottom of the second inning off A-State starting pitcher Chandler Hawkins. Brendon Sanger led off the inning with a single and Levi Meyer drove him in run with an RBI double to right-centerfield. Sanger ran through the stop by his third base coach to give the Owls the early advantage.
FAU capitalized on three ASU defensive miscues in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 4-2 lead. The inning began with a solo home run from Brendon Sanger to tie the score at 2-2. Corey Keller then reached on a bunt single and advanced to second on a throwing error by Hawkins. After a pair of ground outs, Mitch Morales gave the Owls the lead with an RBI single.
Morales later advanced to second when he appeared to be picked off, but Uxa's throw to second was low and went into the outfield, which allowed Morales to move to third. Hawkins then hit Nathan Pittman to put runners on the corners and was lifted for Seth McWilliams.
Pittman then intentionally got himself in a run down between first and second to try and allow Morales to score at third. A-State had the situation played perfectly until Uxa failed to handle to a throw from Jones, which allowed Morales to score the third run of the inning for the Owls.
Florida Atlantic added another run in the bottom of the fifth inning when Sanger tripled with two outs and scored on a double by Corey Keller to push the deficit to 5-2.
A-State had an opportunity to cut into the Owls' lead in the eighth inning when Roberts and Uxa each reached with one out in the inning. Roberts drew a walk and Uxa doubled down the right field line to bring the tying run to the plate. However, a fly out and a strike out left both runners stranded on base and keep the deficit at three runs.