LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (5/17/12) - Trailing 3-2 after four innings of play, the Arkansas State Red Wolves (30-21, 17-9) scored four times in the fifth and went on to defeat the UALR Trojans 8-5, Thursday night at Gary Hogan Field in the Sun Belt Conference series opener between the two teams.
With the win, the Red Wolves kept their hopes of a Sun Belt Conference championship alive. Arkansas State, which secured no worse than the No. 2 seed in next week's Sun Belt Conference Tournament, trails Florida Atlantic by one game with two games remaining in the regular season. Florida Atlantic opened its series with Florida International with a 12-2 win Thursday night in Boca Raton, Fla.
Right fielder Collin Massanelli went 2-for-4 with a run scored, second baseman Anthony Hecht was 1-for-3 and tied his career high with three runs driven in, left fielder Logan Uxa went 1-for-3 with three runs scored, and Arkansas State took advantage of 10 free bases on the night to help plate its eight runs. Five Trojan pitchers combined to walk nine batters and hit another to offset a 10-6 UALR advantage in hits on the night.
"That is life in the Sun Belt," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "It doesn't matter if you have a lead, it only matters what happens at the end."
UALR used a solo home run from catcher Blake Johnson in the second and an RBI single from shortstop Ben Crumpton in the third to give the Trojans an early 2-0 advantage. A two-run single in the fourth from second baseman Anthony Hecht tied the game, but a leadoff home run from UALR third baseman Nick Rountree in the bottom of the inning quickly put the Trojans back on top, 3-2.
Arkansas State put four runs on the board in the top of the fifth to take a 6-3 lead. Center fielder Michael Faulkner drew a one-out walk, advanced to third on a double from Massanelli and scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at 3-3. Massanelli came home on a base hit from Uxa before Hecht and catcher Stuart Levy drew bases loaded walks for the 6-3 ASU advantage.
The Red Wolves added two more in the seventh to increase their lead to 8-3. Uxa walked, advanced to second on a walk from designated hitter Ryan Emery, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch, and an RBI single from Levy drove in Emery for the second run of the inning.
UALR right fielder Myles Parma cut the ASU lead to 8-4 with a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh, and the Trojans added a run when second baseman Chris Burk drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth to pull within 8-5. ASU closer John Koch got out of the bases-loaded one-out jam when he got designated hitter Greg Garcia to hit into a 6-4-3 double play, the third turned by the Red Wolves on the night.
"That was a big moment in the game," said Raffo. "When you see how the game was played out, that was when they were playing the game to win or tie. That was their moment."
Koch did not allow a baserunner in the ninth to earn his 11th save of the season. Senior Jacob Lee picked up the win on the mound for the Red Wolves, giving up three runs on five hits, with four strikeouts and a walk. Lee worked five innings to improve to 8-1 on the season.
Chance Cleveland took the loss for UALR, giving up six runs on five hits while throwing 107 pitches in 4.2 innings of work, walking six and striking out six. Crumpton and Garcia had two hits each to lead UALR.
Arkansas State will go for the series victory Friday at 6:00 p.m. With a series victory at UALR and a series win by FIU over FAU, the Red Wolves would finish in no worse than a tie for the conference championship with FAU. The Red Wolves could claim the title outright and the No. 1 seed in the May 23-26 SBC Tournament with a sweep of UALR and a series win by FIU.
- ASU career strikeout leader Jacob Lee fanned four batters on the night to bring his career total to 269. 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.
- Junior Logan Uxa extended his on-base streak to 22 games, which is a team high. Sophomore Zach George's on-base streak is at 12 games. Junior Zach Maggio's on-base streak now stands at 17 games, although he did not play in Friday's game.
- Junior John Koch earned his 11th save of the season and 15th of his career, both of which are ASU records.
- ASU's three double plays tied their season high set against Evansville Feb. 26.
- Arkansas State matched its highest win total in head coach Tommy Raffo's four years with its 30th victory of the season Friday night
- The Red Wolves' 17 conference victories are the second-most in school history.
- The win was Arkansas State's seventh straight over UALR.