SEARCY, Ark. (ATU) – Jay Johnson went 4-for-5 in the opener, while Patrick Castleberry added three hits, while Mason Reynolds tossed six scoreless innings in the nightcap as the No. 5 Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (41-8, 25-5 Great American Conference) closed out the series sweep of Harding (26-22, 16-13 GAC), winning the opener 6-5 and taking the nightcap 2-0. With the first Tech win of the game, the Wonder Boys clinched their first outright conference title since the 1992 season.
The sweep pushes Arkansas Tech's win streak to 22 games.
In the opening game, the Wonder Boys drew first blood, using a first-inning RBI single by Kris Ayers to take a 1-0 lead. However, an RBI double by James Anderson in the bottom of the frame tied the contest at 1-1, and an RBI grounder by Noah Chandler gave the Bisons a 2-1 lead after one inning of play.
Harding's Victor Guerra smashed a two-run double in the third inning, pushing the Bisons lead to 4-1, but the Wonder Boys cut the deficit to 4-2 in the fourth on an RBI single by Keenan Jumper.
The Bisons took the run back in the bottom of the fourth, after John Chapman drew a leadoff walk and was moved over to third, he later scampered home on a wild pitch to give Harding a 5-2 lead.
However, Arkansas Tech rallied in the fifth, loading the bases with one out, and plated the first run of the fifth inning on an infield single by Jay Johnson, cutting the Harding lead to 5-3.
Keenan Jumper was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to narrow the deficit to 5-4, and the Wonder Boys' next hitter, James Sharp, was also hit by a pitch, to knot the game at 5-5. Sage Boehner came to the plate next, drawing a bases-loaded walk and putting the Wonder Boys ahead 6-5.
Meanwhile, the Wonder Boys bullpen was stellar, allowing just three hits over the final six innings after Harding chased Aaron Johnson in the fourth inning. Colt Burns picked up two outs in the fourth, before giving way to Trent Armstrong, who went 3.1 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit.
The Bisons threatened against Jake Bell in the eighth inning, using back-to-back singles and a walk to load the bases with none out. However, Bell got pinch hitter Davis Richardson to ground into the 4-2-3 double play, and fanned Chapman to end the Harding threat.
Randy Vallejo worked the ninth inning for his 16th save of the season. Armstrong picked up the win, improving to 7-0 on the season.
While the opener was a slugfest, the nightcap was a pitchers' duel, as the two teams traded scoreless frames in the first and second innings. Boehner belted a two-out, solo home run down the right field line in the third inning, which would provide the only run of the game until the seventh inning, when Jumper scored on a wild pitch.
Reynolds stopped the Bisons at every turn, giving up just four hits and three walks in his 6.0 innings of work. With the Wonder Boys leading 2-0 going into the seventh, Reynolds stepped aside for Vallejo, who surrendered back-to-back singles to lead off the inning. Harding attempted to bunt the runners over, but the attempted sacrifice was bunted right back to Vallejo, who quickly threw to third to retire the lead runner.
Vallejo then got Erin McCarver to bounce into a game-ending double play to lock up his Division II-best 17th save of the season. Reynolds picked up the win, improving to 7-0 on the year.