LITTLE ROCK – It didn’t look good at the beginning for Sam Thoele, but the sophomore was able to settle in and pitch UALR to a 4-2 win over Arkansas State at Gary Hogan Field.
The right-hander allowed the first ASU (29-25, 17-12 SBC) batter and the last one he faced to score, but blanked the Red Wolves in between. Meanwhile, UALR (24-29, 11-18 SBC) used a four-run fourth to grab the lead and never looked back.
Once again, Tanner Rockwell played a vital role in the win going 2-for-4 with an RBI and recording a save by working the final two innings.
Thoele got himself into trouble in the first hitting two batters and giving up a single to Austin Baker to load the bases with two outs. He then walked Lucas Feddersen to give ASU a run before getting a popup to end the threat.
The Trojans finally got to Red Wolves' starter Bradley Wallace in the fourth. After having the first seven batters retired in order, Ryan Scott and Sam Vogel each singled to kickstart the offense. Austin Pfeiffer followed with an RBI-single to left before Petr Sila moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt. Ben Crumpton, then, fell behind in the count before battling back to earn a count full. With two outs and a full count Pfeiffer took off from second on the pitch and when Crumpton beat out an infield single Pfeiffer was able to score right on Vogel’s heels to make it 3-1.
The rally continued as Rockwell came to the plate and drove in Crumpton, who had stolen second base, with a single to left to stake Thoele to a three-run lead, which was all he'd need.
Both offenses fell silent until the bottom of the seventh. Drew Merten and Vogel got hits to start the inning, but Cody Woodhouse was able to get out of the jam and keep the score 4-1 as the game moved to the eighth.
Thoele came out for the eighth despite a pitch count over 100. But after he walked the leadoff batter, UALR turned to its closer Rockwell. The Red Wolves were able to get the runner around on a double by Baker, but Rockwell got out of the inning with the lead still at two for the Trojans.
Thoele matched Travis McDonald’s solid outing from Friday night going seven-plus innings allowing two runs on one hit while striking out six.
Rockwell came back and pitched a perfect ninth inning to close out the Red Wolves and put the Trojans one step closer to earning a spot in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
Five of UALR’s eight hits on the night came in the within a six-batter span in the fourth with Rockwell’s sixth-inning single and Merten’s and Vogel’s singles in the seventh representing the rest of the output. Crumpton stole his 32nd base of the season and drove in two runs in the winning effort.
The Trojans will look for a sweep against the Red Wolves on Saturday with the Senior Day ceremony starting at 12:30 p.m. and first pitch at 1:00 p.m. at Gary Hogan Field. A win will clinch a berth in the conference tournament for UALR, a loss would mean they would need help to qualify.