LITTLE ROCK - The UALR baseball team dropped its first home series of the 2012 season on Friday night as Arkansas State (31-21, 18-9) defeated the Trojans 10-8 at Gary Hogan Field. UALR (26-27, 12-17) nearly came all the way back from a 10-1 deficit, scoring four runs in the seventh and three in the ninth, but ASU recorded the final out of the game at the warning track to strand the tying runs on base. UALR heads into the final day of the regular season needing a win and some help to qualify for the 2012 Sun Belt Tournament.
"It was good to see our guys fight back tonight after getting down big. I like the way we finished things off tonight and showed some fight," said UALR head coach Scott Norwood. "We know it's up to us tomorrow and we have to come out and take care of business."
Arkansas State starter Daniel Wright held the Trojans to one run over the first six innings as the Red Wolves jumped out to an 8-1 lead. ASU went on top 10-1 in the top of the seventh off a two-run homer by Zach George, but the Trojans answered with a four-spot in the bottom half, sparked by a two-run homer from junior Chris Burk.
ASU called on closer John Koch to finish things out in the bottom of the ninth with the Red Wolves leading 10-5, but the Trojans rallied as six-straight batters reached base to open the inning. UALR got within striking distance as junior Blake Johnson made it a 10-8 ballgame with a two-run single with the bases loaded, but Koch battled back to strike out the next batter he faced. With two runners on and two outs, Burk hit a deep fly ball to left field, but Uxa pulled it in at the warning track to end the game.
Wright improved to 3-5 on the year by holding the Trojans to seven hits and three runs over 6.0 innings. UALR starter Blake Huffman (5-4) suffered the loss after allowing six hits and five runs, with six strikeouts, over 3.2 innings.
Ryan Emery led the Red Wolves with a 3-for-4 day at the plate, while George went 2-for-5 with two runs scored and three RBI. Johnson and junior John Clark paced the Trojans with three hits apiece, with Johnson driving in a team-high three runs.
Wright sat the Trojans down in order in the bottom of the first, but the Trojans got on the board in the second as Johnson followed up a leadoff double by senior Nick Rountree with a run-scoring single up the middle. UALR was unable to do any more damage in the inning, however, as Wright got a 4-6-3 double play from the next Trojan batter on a ball which was hit directly at second baseman Anthony Hecht as he went to cover the bag on a stolen base attempt.
Huffman opened the game with four strikeouts over two shutout innings, but ASU managed to tie things up at 1-all in the third after Ryan Roberts got things going with a leadoff double off the wall in left. Johnson took third on a sacrifice bunt and scored the tying run on an RBI base knock to right from Michael Faulkner.
Arkansas State used three singles and four walks to manufacture four runs and take a 5-1 lead in the top of the fourth. After the first two batters reached with a single and a walk, Emery made it a 2-1 ballgame with a run-scoring single through the right side. Roberts singled up the middle two batters later to plate Claude Johnson from third, and Huffman saw his evening come to an end after loading the bases with a two-out walk to Faulkner. Junior Marshal Hamrick was charged with bailing the Trojans out of the bases loaded jam, but back-to-back walks forced across a pair of runs to put ASU ahead, 5-1. UALR finally got out of the inning on the next at-bat (ASU's 10th of the inning), as Uxa grounded out to first.
UALR looked as if it would cut into its deficit in the bottom of the fourth as junior Myles Parma singled into centerfield with runners on first and second, but Rountree was thrown out at the plate (8-2) to end the inning.
Sophomore Austin Pfeiffer worked a scoreless frame in the fifth by stranding a pair of base runners, but ASU tacked on three more runs with two outs on the board in the sixth as five-consecutive batters reached base. Pfeiffer retired the first two hitters he faced to open the inning, but three singles and two walks allowed the Red Wolves to build an 8-1 lead. Johnson pushed across the first run with an RBI single, and Hecht capped off the rally with a two-out, two-run single to left.
ASU and UALR traded two-run homers in the seventh, with George giving the Red Wolves a 10-1 lead in the top half with a two-out, two-run homer to left. Wright held the Trojans to one run over the first six innings, but Burk followed up a leadoff single by Parma with a two-run homer to center to make it a 10-3 game and bring Wright's evening to an end. ASU brought on Morgan Croft after Burk's home run, but UALR added a run as senior Greg Garcia and Clark greeted him with back-to-back doubles. Clark scored from third with two outs on the board moments later off a wild pitch from Croft to make it a 10-5 contest.
Trailing 10-5 in the bottom of the ninth, Clark opened the inning with a leadoff single to the right field corner off Koch, but was thrown out at second base (9-6) as he tried to stretch the play into a double. Senior Cameron Bentley and sophomore Ben Crumpton made it three-straight hits off Koch though with a single and a double, before Bentley scored from third off a wild pitch. Walks to senior Sean Bignall and Rountree loaded the bases to set the stage for Johnson's two-run single up the middle. With the lead cut two, Koch managed to get outs from the next two Trojans to finish off the win.
The Trojans and the Red Wolves conclude the three-game series tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. Prior to the first pitch, UALR will honor its five seniors and present its 2011 NCAA Regional rings to last year's team.