JONESBORO, Ark. (5/6/12) — Trailing 1-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Arkansas State Red Wolves rallied for two runs in the bottom of the inning, getting a walk-off RBI single from pinch-hitter Alex Potts to defeat the South Alabama Jaguars 2-1 Sunday afternoon in the Sun Belt Conference series finale between the two teams at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field.
Senior starter Cory Kyle put the Red Wolves in position to get the win, giving up the one South Alabama run on just one hit in seven innings of work, the longest outing of his career. Kyle struck out five batters and walked three, setting the stage for sophomore Bradley Wallace to work the final two innings to pick up the win. Wallace struck out one and did not issue a walk over the final two frames, giving up two hits to improve to 3-1 on the season.
With the win, Arkansas State earned its first-ever series sweep of South Alabama (18-30, 12-12). The Red Wolves defeated the Jaguars 8-1 in Friday’s series opener and 6-1 in the Saturday afternoon matchup. Arkansas State is now 26-19 overall and 15-7 in Sun Belt Conference play, trailing league-leader Florida Atlantic by just one game with six games remaining. Florida Atlantic was defeated 6-1 by Western Kentucky Sunday afternoon to slip to 16-6 in SBC action.
“Cory did a good job of holding an outstanding hitting team down, and Wallace did the same in the last two innings,” said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. “We played good defense and gave ourselves an opportunity at the very end. That is all you can ask for.”
Facing the one-run deficit in the ninth, left fielder Logan Uxa surprised the South Alabama defense with a bunt single down the third base line to lead off the inning for the Red Wolves.
“Logan felt like it was there, and I told him if he felt good about it and the opportunity presented itself, he had the green light,” added Raffo when asked about Uxa’s bunt. “The game was still so close. If we were maybe five or six runs down, it would be a little different, but we were just trying to get something on our side. We were able to get the momentum back on our side even though we were down and it helped carry us through the inning.”
Third baseman Claude Johnson followed Uxa’s single with a base hit up the middle, and designated hitter Ryan Emery ended South Alabama starter Payton Gardner’s day when he drew a walk to load the bases with no outs.
Gardner (0-5) had frustrated the Red Wolves through the first eight innings, holding ASU to no runs on just two hits with five strikeouts, but took the loss after finishing the day by giving up the two ASU runs on four hits with eight walks.
South Alabama closer Kyle Bartsch hit pinch-hitter Kaleb Brown with the first pitch he threw to send home a run and tie the game, and Potts’ base hit to right field two pitches later drove home the winning run.
A-State out-hit the Jaguars 5-3 on the afternoon, with Johnson going 2-for-3 to lead the Red Wolves. South Alabama catcher J.T. Files went 1-for-2 with an RBI to lead the Jaguars.
With Sunday’s win, the Red Wolves also clinched a berth in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, scheduled for May 23-27 in Bowling Green, Ky. Arkansas State is assured of no worse than the No. 6 seed in the eight-team field, and can secure at least the No. 2 spot with a series victory at home over next weekend’s opponent, Florida International.
Arkansas State returns to action May 8 when the Red Wolves travel to Little Rock to take on UAPB in a 3:30 p.m. game at Dickey-Stephens Park.
- Arkansas State used just six pitchers over the weekend against the Jaguars, giving up a total of just three runs in the three-game series. South Alabama went into the weekend with the league’s best batting average at .326 in conference games, but ASU pitchers Jacob Lee, Daniel Wright, Cory Kyle, Brandon Farley, John Koch and Bradley Wallace held the Jags to a .149 average, allowing just 13 hits.
- Junior Daniel Wright gave up one run on five hits, struck out four, walked just two and retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced to pick up the win in the 6-1 Saturday victory, giving the Red Wolves their first series victory over the Jaguars since the 2009 season. His seven innings of work in the game tied his career high.
- ASU career strikeout leader Jacob Lee fanned three batters in picking up the win in the May 4 series opener against USA to bring his career total to 260. Lee broke the previous ASU record of 251 set by Rusty Bourg from 1967-70 when he struck out five batters April 22 at FAU to finish the game with 255 career strikeouts.
- The series sweep was the first-ever for the Red Wolves over South Alabama.
- Freshman Collin Massanelli extended his team-high on-base streak to 27 games when he singled in the second inning of Sunday’s 2-1 victory. Massanelli has reached base in every game in which he has played at ASU. Junior Logan Uxa has now reached base in 16 straight games, while junior Zach Maggio has reached in 13 consecutive games.
- Third baseman Claude Johnson finished the South Alabama series with an 8-game hit streak, the longest current streak on the team.
- Senior Cory Kyle’s seven innings in Sunday’s 2-1 victory was the longest outing of his career. Kyle gave up just one hit while striking out five.
- Junior Zach Maggio’s two doubles in Friday’s 8-1 victory were a career high.