|Red Wolves Rally In Ninth to Clinch SBC Series With...|
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (4/28/12) - Trailing 4-1 heading into the final two innings, the Arkansas State Red Wolves scored twice in the eighth and five times in the ninth to rally for an 8-5 victory over the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Saturday afternoon at Reese Smith Jr. Field.
The win, coupled with Friday night's 8-5 victory, clinched the Sun Belt Conference series victory for Arkansas State, which improved to 23-18 overall and 12-6 in SBC action. Middle Tennessee dropped to 24-21 overall and 10-10 in league play with the loss. The series victory is the first-ever for the Red Wolves over the Blue Raiders in Murfreesboro.
Trailing 4-3 heading into the ninth, Arkansas State got the tying run aboard when center fielder Michael Faulkner singled to lead off the inning. Faulkner moved to second when first baseman Zach George drew a four-pitch walk, then scored the tying run on a single from designated hitter Claude Johnson. A sacrifice fly from right fielder Collin Massanelli scored George to put the Red Wolves on top 5-4, and a two-run double down the right field line from catcher Ryan Roberts extended the ASU lead to 7-4. Arkansas State's final run came on a sacrifice fly from second baseman Zach Maggio, giving the Red Wolves an 8-4 lead heading into the bottom of the inning.
After retiring the first two batters he faced in the ninth, ASU junior John Koch gave up a run on an RBI single from third baseman Hank LaRue, but Koch closed the door when he struck out center fielder Ryan Stephens looking to end the game.
"We had some quality at-bats at the end of the game and that was important," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "You can't dictate where the ball is going to go, but it found some green grass for us and we just kind of rode the momentum."
"Any time you can win a series in the Sun Belt, it is huge," added Raffo. "Every team in the league is capable of winning, so to get the series is a very positive thing. Everyone in the league is a difficult opponent and everyone in the league knows that."
After scoring a run in the first on a two-out RBI single from left fielder Logan Uxa, the Red Wolves carried the 1-0 lead until the bottom of the sixth, when Middle Tennessee scored four times to go on top.
Left fielder Trent Miller led off the sixth with a single for the Blue Raiders, moved to third on a double from LaRue and scored on wild pitch to tie the game at 1-1. A run-scoring single from pinch-hitter Matthew Drake put the Blue Raiders on top 2-1, and a two-out, two-run double from left fielder Justin Guidry gave MTSU a 4-1 advantage before ASU was able to get out of the inning.
Arkansas State pulled within a run in the eighth after stringing together four consecutive one-out singles. A base hit from Uxa was followed by a single from Massanelli. Uxa scored on a single from Emery, and after a single from pinch-hitter Drew Burks, Massanelli scored from third on a sacrifice fly to right field from shortstop Dustin Jones to cut the MTSU advantage to a single run at 4-3.
Arkansas State out-hit the Blue Raiders 13-11 on the day, led by Uxa who went 3-for-3, reached base all five times he came to the plate, scored two runs and drove in another. Jones went 2-for-3 with an RBI and MTSU was led by Guidry's 3-for-5 afternoon, with 2 RBIs.
Junior Morgan Croft (4-1) pitched two innings to pick up the win for the Red Wolves, retiring all five batters he faced. Starter Daniel Wright pitched five scoreless innings before giving up MTSU's four runs in the sixth. Wright worked 5.2 innings on the day, giving up eight hits, walking three and striking out one. Joey McClung (3-1) took the loss for the Blue Raiders, giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning. McClung walked two, gave up two hits and did not record a strikeout.
Arkansas State will go for the series sweep Sunday at 1:00 p.m.