Little Rock, AR (A-State) – The Arkansas State baseball team trailed Little Rock 10-7 entering the top of the ninth inning Saturday afternoon at Gary Hogan Field, but an eight-run frame, highlighted by a Matt Burgess grand slam, gave A-State a 15-11 win and series win against the Trojans in both teams’ regular-season finale.
A-State (27-27, 13-17 SBC) began the rally with a one-out single from Tony Ortiz that scored Jeremy Brown, who led off the inning with a hit, to make the score 10-8. Ty White singled to load the bases and set up a Joe Schrimpf sacrifice fly that made the score 10-9, but also gave Little Rock (26-26, 17-13 SBC) the second out of the inning. However, Trojans’ reliever Cole Townsend walked Garrett Rucker and Tanner Ring back-to-back with Ring’s walk bringing in the tying run.
The Trojans made a visit to the mound, but the first pitch to Burgess from Townsend was sent over the left-field fence for a grand slam in what was Burgess’s first at-bat from the right side during the game to put A-State on top 14-10. The Red Wolves added another run on a double by Tim Seldomridge, who had entered earlier in the inning to pinch run for Daltan Lovell, which was lost in the sun by Little Rock’s Keegan Meyn.
Tyler Zuber entered the game to pitch the bottom of the ninth for Arkansas State and allowed one run before the Trojans loaded the bases with two outs and the tying run at the plate. However, the Pine Bluff, Ark., native froze Hunter Owens on a 1-2 pitch to preserve the 15-11 victory for A-State.
Zach Haake picked up the win for A-State after allowing two runs on two hits in the bottom of the eighth inning and improved to 2-0 on the year, both wins coming this week with the first on Tuesday night against No. 6 Ole Miss. Bryan Ayers was the most effective pitcher for the Red Wolves with three shutout innings as the Vilonia, Ark., native allowed four hits with one walk and three strikeouts. Starter Zachary Patterson and Adam Grantham combined to allow eight runs in four frames.
All 10 A-State players that received an at-bat reached base at least once in the game, with Jake Bakamus the only one not recording a hit. Burgess finished 3-for-6 with a career-high five RBIs with four coming on his sixth home run of the year. Ring filled up the box score as well with a 3-for-5 performance which featured three runs knocked in, three runs scored, two doubles, and a walk. White and Ortiz also had three hits apiece, with Ortiz, Schrimpf, Rucker, Brown, and Seldomridge all picking up a RBI.
Little Rock starter Joe Corbett tossed 5.2 innings and gave up seven runs (six earned) on 12 hits, but was in line to win the game when he exited. Reed Willenborg allowed two runs (both in the ninth) in 2.2 innings, while Townsend was lit up for six earned runs in just a third of an inning pitched. Nik Gifford had four hits, while Ty Gunter had three hits and three RBIs to pace the Trojans’ offense.
Little Rock jumped out to a 4-0 advantage in the bottom of the first inning against Patterson. Gifford singled home the first run before Ty Gunter hit a three-run home run, his third round-tripper of the series, to put the tally at 4-0. The Trojans added another run in the bottom of the second inning on a Ryan Scott double for a 5-0 advantage.
The Red Wolves got on the board in the top of the third inning with an infield hit by Ring scoring White for the team’s first run. Burgess had an infield hit a batter later and a throwing error by Little Rock allowed Schrimpf to scamper home to cut the deficit to 5-2. However, Little Rock scored three runs in the bottom of the inning on a RBI ground out and two run-scoring singles to go in front by six runs at 8-2.
Brown knocked in A-State’s third run of the game in the top of the fifth inning with a RBI ground out to plate Ring to make the score 8-3. The Red Wolves loaded the bases in the top of the sixth and scored one run when Schrimpf grounded into a double play to make the score 8-4. The visitors then reeled off three straight hits with a double by Rucker, double by Ring, and single by Burgess that scored three more runs to put A-State within one at 8-7.
Arkansas State clinched a spot in the 2016 Sun Belt Conference Tournament, being held May 25-29 in San Marcos, Texas, with a win against Little Rock last night. The Red Wolves are the eighth seed and will play the top seed Louisiana-Lafayette by virtue of a Ragin’ Cajuns win and South Alabama loss that gives ULL the tiebreaker over the Jaguars. The official tournament bracket with game times will be released later in the day Saturday.