JONESBORO, Ark.- Third baseman Claude Johnson went 4-for-4 with three runs scored, an RBI and a walk to lead the Arkansas State Red Wolves (29-21) to a 10-5 victory over the 22nd-ranked Ole Miss Rebels (34-18) Tuesday night at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field in the final home game of the 2012 season.
The win was ASU's first over a ranked team since the 2010 season, when the Red Wolves defeated No. 18 Western Kentucky 6-4 and 3-1 to win a Sun Belt Conference series in Jonesboro. The victory was also A-State's first over Ole Miss since a 7-5 win over the second-ranked Rebels in Oxford, Miss. during the 2008 season.
Arkansas State trailed 2-1 after three innings, but took the lead with a pair of runs in the fourth, then broke the game open with five runs in the fifth.
"It was a good win and the guys played hard tonight," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "We had a good start by Cody Woodhouse on the mound and some guys in the middle of the game kind of bridged the gap for us. We had a big inning in the fifth to break it open for us."
Ole Miss used a two-run home run from designated hitter Zach Kirksey to break a scoreless tie in the second, but the Red Wolves answered with a run in the bottom of the inning when Johnson walked and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
Johnson singled and scored in the fourth on a ground-out from second baseman Anthony Hecht to tie the game at 2-2, and an RBI double from catcher Ryan Roberts off the right field wall put the Red Wolves on top, 3-2.
Right fielder Collin Massanelli doubled to lead off the five-run fifth for ASU, and after advancing to third on a ground-out from first baseman Zach George, came home on a wild pitch for the 4-2 Arkansas State advantage. An RBI double from Johnson and a run-scoring single from Roberts lifted the A-State lead to 6-2 and a base hit from shortstop Dustin Jones scored Hecht to make it 7-2, ASU. The Red Wolves' final run of the fifth scored when Roberts crossed the plate when center fielder Michael Faulkner reached on an Ole Miss error.
Ole Miss used a two-run double from center fielder Auston Bousfield and an RBI single from second baseman Alex Yarbrough in the seventh to cut the ASU lead to 8-5, but Faulkner drove in a run with a double in the seventh and an RBI ground-out from designated hitter Ryan Emery in the eighth pushed the lead back to five at 10-5.
ASU junior John Koch came on in the ninth and did not allow a baserunner to close out the win, lifting the Red Wolves to 25-0 on the season when leading after eight innings. Sophomore Cody Woodhouse started and worked 4.1 innings, giving up two runs on five hits with no walks and a strikeout, and freshman Chandler Hawkins (2-2) followed, working 1.2 innings to pick up the win. Hawkins surrendered no runs on just one hit, walked none and struck out one.
Casey Mulholland (0-2) took the loss in one inning on the mound for the Rebels, giving up two runs on three hits, with no walks and no strikeouts.
Faulkner, Emery and Jones all finished the night with two hits and an RBI and Roberts notched two hits and two RBIs. Kirksey went 2-for-2 with two RBIs to lead Ole Miss.
Arkansas State will now wrap up the regular season with a pivotal three-game SBC series May 17-19 at UALR. Arkansas State is assured of no worse than the No. 3 seed in the eight-team Sun Belt Conference Tournament field, and can clinch at least the No. 2 spot with one victory this weekend at UALR, or a Florida Atlantic victory over FIU. 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, OR with a 2-1 series victory over UALR, coupled with an FIU sweep over FAU.
"Everybody is fighting and scrapping, and it is going to be a war for everybody this weekend," said Raffo. "We are proud of the effort of our team to end the home portion of the season with a win."
Thursday and Friday's games are scheduled for 6:00 p.m., and Saturday's regular-season finale is set for 1:00 p.m.