Bobbled ball sets up winning run

Posted: May 18, 2018 at 2:01 a.m.

In a game with five home runs, a strikeout scored the game-winning run.

Entering a tie game in the top of the ninth, Arkansas State University sophomore Drew Tipton struck out on a pitch in the dirt.

The catcher bobbled the baseball, and Tipton advanced to first when the catcher missed the throw to first.

Two batters later, Red Wolves senior second baseman Justin Brown hit an RBI double to left field to give ASU a 7-6 victory over the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Thursday night at Gary Hogan Field in Little Rock.

Red Wolves junior right-hander Peyton Culbertson (2-4; 3.60 ERA through Wednesday) earned the victory, pitching 1 2/3 innings and striking out two batters in the ninth.

ASU (19-30, 10-16 Sun Belt Conference) remains within range of one of the final two spots in the 10-team Sun Belt Tournament, and UALR (26-25, 14-13) fell behind in its pursuit of its first West Division title.

“We’re playing these games like it’s the tournament already. We have to,” said ASU junior first baseman Kyle MacDonald, who went 2 for 3 with 2 home runs, 3 RBI and a walk. “We win these three and we put ourselves in a good position to get in the tournament. We obviously need some help, but we can’t worry about that and we’ve got to play our game and hope for the best.”

ASU is tied with Louisiana-Monroe for ninth place in the Sun Belt, which sets the Red Wolves at 10th because the Warhawks won the season series earlier in the season. If ASU holds its half-game lead over Georgia State through the weekend, the Red Wolves will advance to their ninth consecutive Sun Belt Tournament.

UALR must win its next two games against ASU, and Louisiana-Lafayette must lose its next two games against Louisiana-Monroe in order for the Trojans to win the West and earn the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.

“They’re resilient,” UALR Coach Chris Curry said of his team. “All year they have bounced back, and all year they fought back just when a lot of people think they’re done. I trust these guys. I know they’ll bounce back.”

The Trojans fell behind Thursday night in the second inning, after ASU junior left fielder Casey Vaughan reached first on a mishandled grounder by junior third baseman Nick Perez.

Two batters later, senior designated hitter Tobias Johnson hit a two-run home run to right center field off UALR sophomore left-handed starter Chandler Fidel for the game’s first runs.

In the top of the fifth, ASU’s MacDonald hit his own two-run home run to right field to set the Red Wolves ahead 4-0.

UALR junior left fielder Ryan Benevidez recorded the Trojans’ first hit of the game, leading off the bottom of the fifth with a double off the right-field wall. Two batters later, Perez drove in Benevidez with a sacrifice fly to right field, bringing UALR within 4-1.

MacDonald’s solo home run in the seventh gave the Red Wolves a 5-1 lead.

The Trojans pulled within 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh, knocking ASU junior right-handed starter Bradey Welsh out of the game with consecutive two-out singles. Then, pinch-hitting Riley Pittman hit a two-run triple, and junior centerfielder Matt Ragan followed by beating out a throw at first for an RBI single.

ASU’s Cullen Ray and UALR’s Kale Emshoff traded solo home runs in the eighth to make it 6-5.

Ragan tied the game 6-6 in the bottom of the eighth by beating out another throw on a two-out, RBI infield single with the bases loaded.

UALR and ASU play their second game at 6 p.m. today.

SOUTHLAND

NICHOLLS STATE 5,

CENTRAL ARKANSAS 4

Nicholls State scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday to beat the University of Central Arkansas in the series opener in Thibodaux, La.

UCA (32-21, 17-11 Southland Conference) built a 3-0 lead in the second inning on a William Hancock RBI single and sacrifice flies from Josh Somdecerff and Keaton Presley. Nicholls State (24-30, 12-16) got a run back in the bottom of the inning on a Dillon Belle RBI single.

The Bears took a 4-1 lead in the top of the third on a Colby LeBlanc RBI single. Lee Clark’s RBI single in the bottom of the fourth cut the lead to 4-2 before the Colonels rallied in the bottom of the ninth. Kyle Knauth hit a two-run double down the right-field line to tie the game at 4-4, then scored the winning run when Gage Teer reached on a fielder’s choice.

Tyler Smith was 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored to lead UCA, while Presley was 2 for 3 with 1 RBI in the leadoff spot. Conner Williams took the loss on the mound after allowing the Colonels’ rally in the bottom of the ninth.

Sports on 05/18/2018