STATESBORO, GA – The Arkansas State baseball team got 8.2 innings of one-run baseball from its bullpen of Tyler Mitzel and Tyler Zuber and used a three-run seventh inning to defeat second-seeded UT Arlington 4-2 Friday afternoon at J.I. Clements Stadium in Statesboro, Ga.
UT Arlington (30-25) loaded the bases in the bottom of the first with one out on a single and two walks and took a 1-0 advantage on a bases-loaded walk before A-State (28-26) starter Peyton Culbertson was lifted in favor of Mitzel. Mitzel struck out the first batter he faced and got a pop-up to escape the jam.
The Red Wolves quickly threatened in the top of the second after a lead-off double by Alex Howard and Jake Bakamus was hit by a pitch, his 24th of the season, which is a new school record for a single season. It was also his 45th career HBP to tie Derek Alferman for the school record. Jeremy Brown sacrificed the two over before Derek Birginske singled home Howard to tie the game 1-1.
UTA threatened in the bottom of the sixth with a single and hit-by-pitch to lead off the inning, but Mitzel was able to get an out before giving way to Zuber. Zuber registered a strikeout and got a fly out to left field to escape the trouble. Mitzel exited after tossing five shutout innings out of the bullpen and he allowed one hit with one walk and one strikeout.
The top of the seventh saw the Red Wolves put runners on second and third with one out after a hard-hit double by Drew Tipton glanced off the glove of UT Arlington third baseman Brady Cox. Grant Hawkins hit a sacrifice fly to left-center to give A-State a 2-1 lead before Garrett Rucker hit a looping line drive just out of the reach of the shortstop to score another run. Joe Schrimpf then hit a fly ball to right field that Aaron Funk never saw and it dropped in for a RBI triple to make the score 4-1 in favor of A-State.
UT Arlington was able to mount a threat in the bottom of the eighth with back-to-back singles to lead off the frame, but Zuber struck out Omar Salinas for the first out of the inning. However, Zuber walked Will Olson to load the bases and the Mavericks got a run back on a sacrifice fly by Quintin Rohrbaugh to make the score 4-2. Zuber stepped up and struck out Noah Vaughan to keep A-State’s two-run advantage intact as the game went to the ninth.
The Red Wolves didn’t do anything in the top half of the ninth, but Zuber retired the Mavs in order in the bottom of the ninth to clinch the win for A-State. Zuber went 3.2 innings and allowed one run on two hits with one walk and six strikeouts to improve to 6-1 on the season.
UTA’s Trae Patterson took the loss after allowing three runs (all earned) on seven hits with one walk and five strikeouts. The Mavericks only collected four hits on the day with RJ Williams leading the way with two. The four through nine hitters in UT Arlington’s lineup didn’t register a single hit in the contest.
A-State had nine hits in the game with Schrimpf and Howard picking up two apiece. Hawkins, Rucker, Schrimpf, and Birginske had one RBI each. A-State was hit by three pitches in the game to get to 100 on the year, which sets a new school record by surpassing the 98 from last season.
The win means that A-State has advanced to the SBC Tournament semifinals in each of the last five seasons and that the team has won at least two games in the tournament in each of the last eight years, the only team in the league to accomplish that feat.
The Red Wolves will play No. 3 South Alabama at 2 p.m. (CT) Saturday in the semifinals. All of the games of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, which is now a single-elimination event throughout are being broadcast on ESPN3.
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