TROY, AL (ASU) – The Arkansas State baseball team couldn't solve South Alabama starter Austin Bembnowski and committed three errors as the Red Wolves' season came to a close with a 7-3 loss Saturday morning in the Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship Tournament semifinals at Riddle-Pace Field in Troy, Ala.
Bembnowski tossed 8.1 innings for the Jaguars (37-19) and allowed three runs (all earned) with six walks and seven strikeouts to earn the win. A-State (27-30) threatened in the third inning with a lead-off single by Jeremy Brown and one-out walk by Zach George, but Joe Schrimpf grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the scoring opportunity.
The Red Wolves finally got to Bembnowski in the bottom of the seventh inning when Tanner Ring scored on a wild pitch to make the score 7-1 after the Jaguars scored four in the top half of the inning. Bembnowski got the first out of the bottom of the ninth, but a walk to Stuart Levy and infield hit by Matt Burgess forced USA to turn to Cody Van Aken to finish the game.
Van Aken struck out Lucas Feddersen for the second out, but gave up a two-run double to George to cut A-State's deficit to 7-3. Van Aken hit the next batter, Schrimpf, but got Austin Baker to ground out to first to end the contest and the Red Wolves' season.
Offensively, George and Collin Massanelli led the Red Wolves with two hits apiece, while George's two RBIs on the ninth inning double were the team's only RBIs of the game. Cody Jackson pitched well in relief by going 3.2 innings and allowing two runs (both earned) on three hits, while Bo Ritter tossed 2.1 innings, now allowing a run or hit, to finish the game.
The Jaguars struck first in the game with a sacrifice fly in the top of the first inning off A-State starter Adam Grantham. Cole Billingsley walked to lead off the game, was bunted to second base, and stole third with one out before scoring. Grantham didn't make it out of the second inning as Jackson relieved him with one out. Jackson got out of the second inning unscathed to keep the score 1-0.
South Alabama loaded the bases with one out in the top of the fourth with two walks and a single before scoring a run on a fielder's choice. Jared Barnes hit a ground ball to shortstop that looked to be a sure double play, but Schrimpf's throw to first was wide of the bag to score the run. USA added another run in the top of the fifth on an infield single when Adam Ballew beat out an infield hit for a 3-0 lead.
USA put the game out of reach with a four-run seventh inning with all the damage coming with two outs. Reliever Tyler Zuber got the first two outs before back-to-back doubles off the wall in right field scored one run. Another double and a throwing error scored two more runs before an infield hit scored the final run of the frame. Ritter came in and got a fly out to end the inning to keep the score at 7-0.