LITTLE ROCK – In a game that seemed like it may never end Bryson Thionnet sent UALR’s Trojans home happy with a walk-off grand slam to beat the Troy Trojans 9-5 in 16 innings at Gary Hogan Field.
UALR (15-20, 4-12 SBC) fell behind 5-0 early before mounting a come back and pulling even with Troy (19-19, 6-9 SBC) in the fifth inning. From there the two bullpens shut down the offenses until Thionnet’s blast that ended it.
The UALR bullpen was tremendous combining for 10.1 innings pitched allowing no runs on six hits and striking out 11.
Troy jumped on Cory Malcom early with four runs on four hits and a walk in the first inning. The freshman starter settled down and allowed an unearned run in the second before throwing a perfect third as Troy held a 5-0 lead.
In the bottom of the third inning, UALR started its comeback when Hayden Martin drew a walk and Ben Crumpton was hit by a pitch. Austin Pfeiffer laid down a bunt and beat out the throw to first. The first baseman fell trying to stretch to catch the ball, which allowed Martin to come around to score.
Crumpton and Pfeiffer executed a double steal to get to third and second before Tanner Rockwell and Justin Steelmon produced runs with RBI groundouts. UALR only had one hit in the inning, but used aggressive base running to produce three runs and make it 5-3.
Crumpton got a one-out double in the fifth to spark the offense again. The senior advanced third on an infield single by Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer advanced to second on a wild pitch before another wild pitch brought Crumpton in to score and allowed Pfeiffer to move up to third. Rockwell, then, had another RBI groundout to plate Pfeiffer and knot the score at 5-5.
Despite the rough beginning, Malcom left with the game tied. The right hander worked 5.2 innings allowing five runs—four earned—on five hits while walking two and striking out two. Dyllon Brownmiller replaced Malcom on the mound and got the last out of the sixth.
Brownmiller kept Troy’s bats quiet as he worked 2.2 innings allowing just two hits. With one out in the top of the ninth, Brownmiller was replaced by Jesse Harbin with a runner on first. Harbin got the first batter to fly out to Thionnet in center before getting a strikeout to end the inning.
UALR was unable to get the win in the ninth and the game headed to extra innings. The two teams continued on into the 12th as Harbin and Marc Skinner matched zeroes on the scoreboard. Harbin went 3.2 innings without allowing a run and striking out three.
Ethan Schlechte pitched a perfect 13th to give UALR another chance to win it in the bottom of the inning. However, once again Skinner was up to the challenge and sent UALR down in order.
Troy threatened in the 14th with two hits to chase Schlechte and bring on Rockwell on the mound. Rockwell walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, but then struck out the next two to end the threat.
Rockwell worked in and out of trouble three times with a nasty slider that helped him strike out four of Troy’s hitters. But Ben Tidwell matched him as the team’s played into the 16th.
UALR was finally able to end the game as Pfeiffer, Rockwell and Steelmon were able to draw walks to load the bases before Thionnet’s homer down the left field line ended the game. Rockwell picked up the win working 2.2 innings with those four strikeouts.
Rockwell and Pfeiffer led the offensive attack that produced 13 hits with three hits apiece. Drew Merten, who caught all 16 innings, had two hits and Martin also had two hits. Crumpton had a hit, a stolen base and scored twice while fellow senior Thionnet only had one hit, but he made it count with four RBI’s.
The two teams will meet against on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. for game two of the series with the series finale on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. at Gary Hogan Field.