LAFAYETTE, La. – No. 2-seeded South Alabama (41-16) defeated No.7-seeded UALR (28-27) by a 10-2 final score on Wednesday afternoon at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field in the opening round of the Sun Belt Tournament. The Jaguars plated four runs in the bottom halves of the first and third to build an early lead for starter Anthony Izzio, who lasted 8.0 innings and surrendered just two runs while scattering seven hits.
Senior Chance Cleveland was handed the loss for UALR to drop to 5-10 on the year. The right-hander got his team-leading 15th start of the season but surrendered six runs on six hits while lasting just 2.0 innings. Freshman Jesse Harbin came on in relief of Cleveland in the top of the third and did not allow a hit, but issued four walks that led to a pair of South Alabama runs (one earned). Sophomore Cameron Allen lasted 3.2 innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on six hits while striking out three. Junior Chase Rousseau held the Jags scoreless over the final 1.2 innings.
The Jags’ Brandon Boyle worked a scoreless ninth to clinch the win for South Alabama.
The UALR offense finished with eight hits on the day. Senior Blake Johnson and junior Bryson Thionnet finished the game with two hits apiece. Sophomore Sam Vogel hit a solo homer in the top of the seventh inning to plate UALR’s second run of the game.
Sun Belt Player of the Year Jordan Patterson led a Jaguar offense that produced 12 hits on the day, finishing 3-for-5 at the plate with two runs scored and an RBI.
South Alabama, currently ranked No. 24 in the nation, began the game by putting up four runs in the bottom of the first inning. After the Trojans went down in-order in the top half, USA’s Jeff DeBlieux got things started by drawing a walk to lead off the bottom of the first. A single by Bud Collura moved DeBlieux to third base, and another single by Patterson allowed Collura to score and give USA a 1-0 lead. Nick Zaharion’s base hit plated the Jags’ second run of the frame. Cleveland was able to strikeout Nolan Earley for the inning’s first out, but a fielding error on a groundball by Dustin Dalken allowed Patterson to score the Jaguars’ third run of the first inning. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Whitt Dorsey drove in Zaharion and put USA up 4-0 after one complete.
A single by Patterson and double off the left-center field wall by Zaharion gave the Jaguars runners at second and third before an out was recorded in the bottom of the third. Following Zaharion’s double, Cleveland was pulled in favor of Harbin, who issued consecutive walks to Earley and Dalken to bring in the Jags’ fifth run of the game. With the bases now loaded, junior Ben Crumpton went home with a groundball for the inning’s first out. However, a throwing error by Crumpton later in the inning allowed the sixth run of the game to cross home plate. Harbin issued another bases-loaded walk to Graham Odom to put the Jaguars up 7-0. A sacrifice fly by the next batter, DeBlieux, put South Alabama up 8-0. Allen came on to pitch following another walk to Collura, and was able to get Patterson to fly out to center for the third out of the frame.
The Trojans got on the board in the top of the fifth. Thionnet led off the inning with a single up the middle. A groundout by Vogel moved Thionnet to second, and single back up the middle by senior David Guarno allowed Thionnet to score and make it an 8-1 game. Izzio issued a walk to Crumpton to put two men on with one out. However, Izzio was able to get Pfeiffer to fly out to right and Johnson to hit a grounder to third for the final out of the inning.
Vogel’s solo homer to start the seventh inning gave UALR its second run of the contest. However, the Jaguars answered with two runs to take a 10-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Singles by Dorsey and Campbell gave the Jags two men on, and a sacrifice bunt by Odom put both runners in scoring position. With Rousseau now on to pitch for Allen, an error by senior Chris Burk allowed Dorsey to score the first run of the inning. A single to left center by Collura drove in the second run of the frame and put USA up 10-2.
UALR will play its second game in the double-elimination tournament on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. and will face the loser of tonight’s game between No. 6 FIU and No. 3 Louisiana-Lafayette.