JONESBORO, Ark. (AStateRedWolves.com) - Facing Illinois State in a doubleheader Saturday at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field, the Arkansas State baseball team suffered a 3-2 game-one setback before dropping a 9-7 decision to the Redbirds in a seven-inning contest.
Arkansas State saw its record drop to 3-4 on the season with all four losses coming by two runs or less. Illinois State, which also claimed a 4-3 victory over A-State in the four-game series' first outing played Friday, improved to 4-1 with the two wins.
The Red Wolves had opportunities late in both games, stranding runners on second and third in their final at-bat of each contest. A-State used a pair of walks, a sacrifice bunt and a fielder's choice to advance runners into scoring position in the ninth inning of the first game, but a swinging strikeout ended the threat. The second game saw the Red Wolves record four of their nine hits in their last at-bat to mount a big rally, but Illinois State was able to get a fly-ball out to hang on for the win.
Illinois State produced a combined 23 hits on the day, while A-State collected 15. However, the Red Wolves took 13 walks while issuing just six. The Redbirds left 10 runners on base in the first contest and were able to drop that total to six in the second, while Arkansas State left nine men on base each game.
A-State struck first in the opening game, scoring one run in the bottom of the second, and was able to hold the lead until Illinois State scored two in the sixth. The Redbirds tacked on their final run in the seventh to take a 3-1 lead before A-State set the final score in the eighth with a run.
The Red Wolves used five pitchers in the opener, including starter Chandler Hawkins, who gave up two runs in 5.1 innings of work while striking out six. Colton Kibler, Coulton Lee and Tyler Zuber combined to record 1.1 innings of shutout work. Zach George led A-State's offense with a pair of hits and a run, while Matt Burgess and Kevin Fitzpatrick each had an RBI.
It was the Redbirds that took an early lead in the second game, scoring three runs during their first at-bat. The Red Wolves trailed just 5-3 after five innings, but Illinois State scored one run in the sixth and added three more in the seventh to leave A-State facing a six-run deficit heading into its final at-bat.
Zach George, Brett Nickle, Tyler Hardie and Dustin Jones all recorded a hit in the bottom of the seventh to help A-State plate four runs. The final hit was a double by Jones, which gave the Red Wolves runners at second and third with two outs. However, a hard-hit ball by Lucas Feddersen to right-center was then caught on the run by Redbirds' right fielder Daniel Dwyer to end the game.
Eight A-State players had a hit in the second game, including Feddersen with a team-high two. Burgess and Hardie were responsible for a team-high two RBI each.
A-State and Illinois State will conclude their four-game weekend series with a 1 p.m. contest Sunday at Tomlinson Stadium.