TROY, AL (ASU) – Colton Kibler pitched a career-high 6.1 innings out of the bullpen, while Zach George and Tanner Ring had three hits apiece to propel the eighth-seeded Arkansas State baseball team into the Sun Belt Conference Baseball Tournament semifinals as the Red Wolves eliminated fifth-seeded Georgia State by a score of 6-2 Friday afternoon at Riddle-Pace Field in Troy, Ala.
Kibler entered the game in the bottom of the second inning for A-State (27-29) and pitched all the way into the eighth inning before giving way to Tyler Zuber. Kibler allowed two runs (both earned) on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts as he improved to 4-4 on the year. Zuber pitched 1.2 scoreless innings to earn his first save of the season as the Red Wolves eliminated Georgia State (30-27).
Offensively, Ring drove in three runs to go along with his three hits, including his 11th double of the season. George drove in one run on his third home run of the season that led off the game, while Collin Massanelli drove in the Red Wolves' other run. Georgia State used four different pitchers in the game, while Matt Rose drove in the team's two runs on a home run in the third inning.
A-State began the game with a bang when George took Georgia State starter Garrett Ford deep on the second pitch of the game to left field for a 1-0 lead. Ford hit two batters in a row and Ring doubled down the left-field line to score another run. Austin Baker scored on a wild pitch and Massanelli grounded out to first base to plate Ring to give Arkansas State a 4-0 edge after one inning.
The Panthers loaded the bases in the bottom of the first, but Jon Glidewell got a line out to first base to end the inning with no damage. However, Glidewell walked the first two hitters of the second inning and was relieved by Kibler. Kibler got the first two hitters out before Justin Jones appeared to double home two runners on a line drive to left field. However, the runner on first base, Gerrio Rahming, missed second base and turned the play into a force out to keep the score 4-0.
Georgia State did get their two runs back in the bottom of the third inning when Rose hit his 16th home run of the season after a lead-off walk to make the score 4-2. A-State threatened quickly in the next inning off GSU's reliever Cole Uvila by loading the bases with no outs, but Joe Schrimpf and Baker struck out to bring up Ring with two outs. Ring came through in the clutch with a line drive single to center field to score two runs and make the score 6-2.
Kibler retired 12 straight batters from the fourth through eighth innings, but a walk and infield hit with one out in the eighth forced the Red Wolves to turn to Zuber out of the bullpen. Zuber came in and threw two pitches to Joey Roach, who lined out to Schrimpf at second base, who then flipped to Jeremy Brown at the bag to double off Rose to end the inning. Zuber then pitched a perfect ninth to give Arkansas State the win.
A-State has now won at least two games in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament for the sixth straight season and advances to play South Alabama at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. The Red Wolves will have to beat the Jaguars twice on Saturday to advance to Sunday's championship contest. All of the remaining games of the SBC Tournament will be broadcast on ESPN3.