Photo Courtesy: A-State Athletics
JONESBORO, Ark. (ASU) - The Arkansas State baseball split a doubleheader with Middle Tennessee on Sunday winning game one 13-9 after it erased a five-run deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning, but fell 2-1 in 13 innings in game two.
The Red Wolves took the series from the Blue Raiders, winning the first two games and maintained its lead over the squad in the Sun Belt Conference standings. It marked the fourth conference series that Arkansas State has won this season.
A-State is now has an overall record of 24-20 on the year and is 10-11 in Sun Belt Conference play, while Middle Tennessee's overall record is now 24-22 and has a conference record of 8-13.
"Baseball is a funny game and we had a lot of things go up and down for both teams," ASU head coach Tommy Raffo said. "It is just crazy deal and baseball is a funny game and it teaches you a lot of things. You just have to keep giving effort and I was proud of what we were able to accomplish in the series win."
Collin Massanelli led the ASU charge in game one, going 5-for-6 at the plate with four RBIs. The sophomore outfielder was just one hit away from tying the school record for most hits in a game.
The Red Wolves trailed 9-4 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, but scored nine runs on three hits in the bottom half of the inning to take their first lead of the game. The inning featured six walks, including three with the bases loaded and one hit batsman with the bases loaded.
Austin Baker started the inning with a leadoff walk and Dustin Jones followed with a single to put runners on first and second. Massanelli singled through the right side to drive in Baker to cut the lead to 9-5. After Kevin Fitzpatrick struck out, Joey McClung came on to pitch for the Blue Raiders and issued four straight walks, including three with bases loaded.
McClung struck out the first batter he faced, but Jones and Massanelli executed a double steal to move themselves into scoring position. Claude Johnson walked to load the bases and Jones scored on a wild pitch to pull A-State within three. Logan Uxa drew the second straight walk to load the bases again and Stuart Levy drove in Massanelli with a bases loaded walk to pull ASU within 9-7.
Alex Potts followed with the third straight walk of the inning to score Johnson to pull ASU within one of the lead and A-State tied the game on the third bases loaded walk of the inning from Austin Baker.
Jones was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded that scored Levy to give ASU its first lead of the game and Massanelli collected his fifth hit of the game with a two RBI single to push the lead to 12-9. The Red Wolves added another run when Jones scored on a passed ball to complete the nine run inning for ASU.
Tanner Ring came on to pitch the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to pick up the second save of his career and his first since February 19th at Memphis. Derek Birginske earned the win and moved to 1-0 on the year after pitching one inning and giving up one run on one hit.
Middle Tennessee led 2-0 after the top of the first inning, but ASU manufactured across a run in the bottom half of the inning. Massanelli led off the inning with a double to left center and Brown moved him to third with a sacrifice bunt. Ryan Emery drove in the run with a sacrifice fly to center to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Blue Raiders tacked on three runs in the second inning with a pair of home runs. Michael Adkins led off the inning with a solo home run and Jacob Ellison followed two batters later with a two-run home run to left centerfield to push the Middle Tennessee lead to 5-1.
The Red Wolves got a run back in the bottom half of the inning when Massanelli collected his second hit of the game with an RBI single to centerfield that scored Baker, who had reached on a bloop double to leftfield.
A-State continued to chip away at the lead with another run in the bottom of the third inning when Logan Uxa drove in Emery to cut the lead to 5-3. It was Uxa's 19th RBI of the season, which ranks third on the team.
Four A-State pitchers combined to strikeout 10 Blue Raiders in the game. Bradley Wallace was removed from the game going just 1 1/3 innings and was relieved by sophomore Chandler Hawkins who tossed 3 2/3 innings. Birginske pitched an inning of relief before giving way to Ring for the final three innings.
The runs were less plentiful in game two as both teams combined to score just three runs over 13 innings. The Red Wolves jumped out in front with a run in the bottom of the third inning when Kaleb Brown executed a safety squeeze to bring home Fitzpatrick to give ASU a 1-0 advantage.
The score remained the same until the top of the seventh inning when Ryan Stephens homered of Cody Woodhouse to tie the score. Woodhouse, who was making his first weekend start of the season, retired 20 straight batters before giving up the home run to Stephens. The junior right-hander struck out five and gave up just one run on two hits.
Seth McWilliams pitched two innings of shutout baseball before giving way to John Koch for the game's final four innings. Koch held the Blue Raiders' offense at bay until the 13th inning when Stephens drove in Johnny Thomas on an RBI single in what proved to be the winning run.
ASU will play its final home midweek contest of the season on Tuesday, April 30 when it hosts Memphis at Tomlinson Stadium at 6:30 p.m.