STATESBORO, Ga. (5/27/17) – The Arkansas State baseball team allowed a couple of first-inning runs and battled to within one run on two different occasions, but couldn't get over the hump in a 4-2 loss to third-seeded South Alabama in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Saturday at J.I. Clements Stadium in Statesboro, Ga.
The loss dropped A-State to 28-27 on the year and gave the Red Wolves its first winning season since 2014. South Alabama advances to play the winner of tonight's Georgia Southern and Texas State contest for the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament Sunday afternoon.
The two wins in the league tournament marked the eighth straight season the Red Wolves have won two games in the event, which is a feat no other team in the SBC has accomplished.
The Red Wolves fell behind early when South Alabama scored two runs with two outs in the top of the first off starter Tanner Kirby. Travis Swaggerty lined a double over Garrett Rucker's head in center to score one before a RBI single by Wells Davis made it 2-0. The Red Wolves loaded the bases with one out off USA starter Tyler Carr, but Alex Howard grounded into a 4-6-3 double play that looked poised to be a base hit to tie the game.
Grant Hawkins led off the bottom of the third with a triple to left center and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Rucker, his 44th RBI of the season, to make the score 2-1. Back-to-back walks to Joe Schrimpf and Justin Felix put runners on, but Howard flied out to center for the second out. Jake Bakamus stepped up and hit a deep fly ball to right field that Brendan Donovan had to make a leaping catch on right in front of the wall to end the inning.
However, the Jaguars extended the lead back to two runs on an unearned run in the top of the fifth. Drew LaBounty reached on an error and later came around to score on a RBI single by Carter Perkins to make the score 3-1.
A-State cut the edge to one again in the bottom of the seventh when Hawkins walked and scored on a RBI double by Rucker off reliever Avery Geyer, who entered for Carr. The run was confirmed after a lengthy delay due to a review, but allowed Matt Peacock to get loose in the bullpen. Schrimpf bunted Rucker to third after Peacock entered, but Felix struck out and Howard flew out to end the frame.
Bakamus walked to begin the eighth and was bunted over to second, but back-to-back strikeouts left him stranded. The Jaguars added an insurance run in the top of the ninth on a RBI double and Peacock retired the Red Wolves in order in the bottom half to clinch the 4-2 win.
Carr earned the win after allowing one run on five hits in six innings with four walks and five strikeouts. Kirby took the loss after allowing two runs in 1.2 innings. Brandon Stuckenschneider tossed four shutout innings out of the bullpen while Bryan Ayers allowed one run in 3.1 innings of relief.
Rucker led the Red Wolves at the plate with a 2-for-4 effort with two doubles and two RBI, while Hawkins scored both runs. South Alabama was led by Perkins' two-hit effort and a RBI.
Schrimpf had a single to give him 209 hits for his career, which is sixth most in school history. He finished his career with 146 RBI, which is the new school record. Schrimpf was one of five seniors on the 2017 squad along with Bakamus, Rucker, Derek Birginske, and Tyler Zuber.For the latest on A-State baseball follow the team by logging onto the Arkansas State Baseball Facebook page or by following the team on Twitter (@AStateBaseball) and Instagram (arkansasstatebaseball).