ARLINGTON, Texas (2/20/09) – The Arkansas State baseball team (1-1) opened its first season under new head coach Tommy Raffo by splitting a doubleheader to begin play at the UTA/Hilton Invitational Saturday, defeating Texas State (0-1) by a 4-3 score before falling 5-4 to UT Arlington (1-0) at Clay Gould Ballpark.
The Red Wolves won their first season opener since 2006 and Raffo became the fourth ASU head coach to pick up a victory in his coaching debut at Arkansas State. Texas State was picked to finish second in the Southland Conference Preseason Coaches Poll.
Arkansas State trailed Texas State 3-1 midway through the seventh inning, but rallied to score a run in the bottom half of the next four frames to claim the one-run victory over Texas State in 10 innings. With two outs in the 10th, junior Josh DeMoney singled up the middle to drive home pinch-runner Cody Pace from second base and cap the Red Wolves comeback.
ASU didn’t record its first hit until the sixth inning and posted seven of their nine hits over the game’s final four innings. Texas State got on the scoreboard first, putting two runs across the plate in the top of the second inning. ASU pulled within 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning before the Bobcats scored their final run in the eighth.
Texas State finished with 10 hits to the Red Wolves nine and left 11 men on base, while the Red Wolves stranded six runners. Todd Baumgartner, Derrick Coleman and DeMoney all collected two hits to lead ASU, while Kyle DeGrace recorded an RBI with his only hit. Andy Ferguson pitched the final two full innings for ASU, giving up just two hits and no runs while earning the victory.
“I was proud of the way our team competed and stayed in the game, then got a chance late to tie and win it,” said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. “There was a lot of excitement in the dugout for our team to get a win, especially the first game (of the season), and that was fun to see in their eyes.”
While the Red Wolves had a slow offensive start to their first game, they exploded for four runs on five hits in the top of the first inning against UT Arlington. Baumgartner, Coleman and Brandon Eller all singled and Murray Watts had a 2-RBI at bat during the outburst.
However, ASU managed just two hits over the remainder of the game and the Mavericks rallied with five runs on five hits, including a three-run homerun by Michael Choice, in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a 5-4 advantage that held up the remainder of the game. Five of ASU’s seven hits came during the first inning, while five of UTA’s nine hits came in the fifth inning.
“The second game we were ready to play,” said Raffo. “Obviously, one big inning hurt us. We had a big inning of our own, but it wasn’t enough. We’ve just got to do a little better job through the course of a ballgame to put ourselves in position to put teams away, especially when you score four runs early. But that will come, we just have to keep learning through it and understand that there are some moments in games that will come up and we just have to take advantage of them.”
The Red Wolves continue play at the UTA/Hilton Invitational Saturday with a 7:00 p.m. game against Siena, which will be playing its first game of the 2009 season.