JONESBORO, Ark. (4/3/10) - Held hitless and trailing 4-0 after the first five innings, the Arkansas State Red Wolves (17-10, 7-4) rattled off 10 hits to plate six runs in the final three innings to rally for a 6-4 victory over the 18th-ranked Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (22-6, 7-1) Saturday afternoon at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field.
Arkansas State scored twice in the sixth to cut the Hilltopper lead to 4-2, then put up four runs in the eighth, highlighted by a two-out, two-run single from senior pinch-hitter Cody Pace that drove in the go-ahead runs.
With the win, Arkansas State evened the Sun Belt Conference weekend series with the Hilltoppers at 1-1, after Western Kentucky posted a 4-3 win in the Friday night opener. The Red Wolves handed the Hilltoppers their first blemish in conference play, halted Western Kentucky's nine-game streak and earned their first win over a ranked opponent since a 7-5 victory at No. 2 Ole Miss during the 2008 season.
The Hilltoppers managed to get the tying run aboard in the top of the ninth, but freshman John Koch went to the mound for Arkansas State and retired all three batters he faced, striking out the first two. With the effort, Koch earned his third save in his last three trips to the mound. Freshman Daniel Wright earned the win to improve to 3-0, holding the Hilltoppers to no runs on three hits in three innings of relief. Wright struck out five batters on the afternoon without issuing a walk.
"Through the first five innings, they really had us down," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "Shane Cameron was phenomenal for Western Kentucky, taking a no-hitter into the sixth. Tyler Smith kind of got us going when he broke up the no-hitter with a double. That kind of broke the ice and got us loosened up and we scored a couple of runs."
Western Kentucky scored three times in the first and once in the fifth to take a 4-0 lead into the sixth, before Smith led off the inning for Arkansas State with a double. Smith scored on a single from center fielder Micheal Faulkner to put the Red Wolves on the board, and Faulkner scored on a sacrifice fly from third baseman Jordan Castaldo to cut the WKU lead in half at 4-2 before the Hilltoppers were able to get out of the inning.
Arkansas State used one-out singles from Faulkner and second baseman Giovanni Garcia, along with a walk from right fielder Todd Baumgartner to load the bases in the eighth. A single from first baseman Murray Watts drove in Garcia to cut the Hilltopper lead to 4-3, and an infield single from pinch-hitter Josh DeMoney tied the game at 4-4. Pace went to the plate with two outs on the board and sent an opposite-field single into right field to drive in Watts and Baumgartner and put ASU on top 6-4.
Watts went 2-for-3 with an RBI to lead ASU at the plate while first baseman Jake Wells was 2-for-3 to lead the Hilltoppers. Craig Stem (1-2) was saddled with the loss for WKU after walking the only batter he faced in the eighth. Cameron started and worked five and 2/3 innings for Western Kentucky, giving up two runs on just three hits, with four strikeouts and one walk.
The two teams will decide the series Sunday at 1:00 p.m.