JONESBORO, Ark. (2/17/17) – The Arkansas State baseball team was outhit 8-4 by the New York Institute of Technology, but Bryan Ayers struck out a career-high 10 in six scoreless innings and Justin Felix hit a two-run home run to lead the Red Wolves to a 6-0 win over the Bears in the 2017 season opener Friday at Tomlinson Stadium/Kell Field in Jonesboro.
Ayers limited the Bears (0-1) to four hits over his six innings and only walked one batter in his career-best 10 strikeout performance to earn the win on the mound. Felix was the only A-State (1-0) player to knock in more than one RBI as two runs came around on his bomb in the bottom of the eighth. The New Mexico Military Institute transfer caught all nine innings and finished 1-for-3 with a walk and run scored in his Red Wolves debut. The win moved Arkansas State to 16-4 in its last 20 season openers at home.
Bo Ritter, Tanner Kirby, and Bradey Welsh pitched a scoreless inning apiece out of the bullpen with Ritter striking out the side in the seventh. NYIT had a chance to score against Ritter with runners on second and third with one out, but the Hot Springs, Ark., native struck out the final two hitters of the frame to erase the threat.
Jeremy Brown, Casey Vaughan, and Grant Hawkins had the other three A-State hits with Brown’s and Vaughan’s both of the infield variety. Brown drove in a run on a ground out, while Derek Birginske and Garrett Rucker each had sacrifice flies to pick up a RBI apiece. Hawkins stole two bases and scored a run in the fifth inning after the throw skipped past NYIT’s third baseman Louis Mele on his steal of third. Rucker also added a pair of steals, while each A-State player in the lineup reached base at least once in the contest.
NYIT led off the game with two singles, but Ayers picked Frank Sanacore off second base and registered two punch outs to escape the threat. The Bears got runners to third base in the third and seventh innings, but couldn’t cash in either opportunity.
Frank Valentino took the loss for the New York Institute of Technology, despite only allowing one hit, after giving up three runs (all earned) on four walks and five strikeouts. Anthony Caradonna and Matt DeAngelis had two hits apiece to lead the Bears. Brandon Alberto was solid in two scoreless innings out of the pen, but Timothy Milligan allowed three runs in the bottom of the eighth, including Felix’s homer, to put the final at 6-0.
The Red Wolves and Bears square off again Saturday with a doubleheader scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at Tomlinson Stadium/Kell Field. The first game of the double dip will be a nine-inning contest, while the second game will be seven innings long. NYIT has flipped its rotation with Elias Martinez set to throw game one and Matt Diaz moving to game two. Tyler Mitzel and Peyton Culbertson get the ball for Arkansas State.