JONESBORO, Ark. - Senior Bubba Cooper struck out the side in the bottom of the tenth inning to clinch a 5-4 victory for UALR (27-26, 12-17 SBC) against Arkansas State (26-28, 12-17 SBC) on Friday at Tomlinson Field. The win evens the series at a game apiece, with Saturday's rubber match scheduled for 4 p.m. and set to be televised by Comcast Sports Southeast.
A win on Saturday would clinch a spot in the Sun Belt Tournament for the Trojans. If UALR were to lose, it would need Middle Tennessee to lose game three of its series against Western Kentucky to earn the eighth and final spot.
Trailing 4-2 and down to its final set of at-bats, Arkansas State came back to tie the game at 4-all in the bottom of the ninth inning. Senior Tyler Buckley started the frame by getting ASU's Stuart Levy to ground out to second base, but surrendered a one-out single to Ryan Roberts. Kaleb Brown came on to pinch run for Roberts and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Alex Potts drew a walk, setting the stage for Dustin Jones' bases-clearing double down the left field line that knotted the score at 4-all. The Trojans intentionally walked Claude Johnson, but hit Collin Massanelli with a pitch to load the bases. Cooper came on to pitch for Buckley and was able to get the first batter he faced, Austin Baker, out on strikes. Cooper then got Ryan Emery to fly out for the final out of the inning.
In the top of the tenth, senior Myles Parma led off the frame by drawing a walk. A double down the left field line by junior Bryson Thionnet plated the go-ahead run, putting the Trojans up 5-4.
Logan Uxa led off the bottom of the tenth with a single for ASU, but Cooper was able to record three-straight strikeouts to close out the game for the Trojans.
Parma led UALR with three hits and two runs scored on the day. Thoinnet and senior Chris Burk chipped in with two hits each.
Cooper picked up his first win of the season after racking up four strikeouts in 1.2 innings of relief. After starter Travis McDonald was pulled with two outs on the board in the bottom of the first, senior Blake Huffman came on to throw the next 5.0 innings, keeping the Red Wolves scoreless on just two hits.
David Owen (2-2) was dealt the loss for ASU after giving up the go-ahead run in the top of the tenth. ASU starter Bradley Wallace lasted 6.0 innings, surrendering three runs on four hits and striking out four.
ASU plated its first two runs in the bottom of the first. After McDonald issued walks to Massanelli and Emery, Uxa drove in the first run of the game with an infield single. A sacrifice fly by Levy scored Emery from third to give the Red Wolves a 2-0 lead. Following another single by Ryan Roberts, McDonald was pulled in favor of Huffman, who issued a walk to the first batter he faced but was able to get Jones to ground out for the final out of the inning.
UALR scratched across its first run of the game in the top of the fourth. A two-out double by Burk plated senior Blake Johnson, who walked earlier in the frame, all the way from first base.
The Trojans evened the score in the top of the sixth. Junior Austin Pfeiffer was hit by a pitch to start the inning, and Johnson singled to center to move Pfeiffer to second base. A wild pitch advanced both runners, and a sacrifice fly by senior John Clark plated Pfeiffer for the tying run.
UALR took its first lead of the game in the top of the seventh. Parma led off the inning with a double to left. Thionnet then drew a walk to give UALR a pair of base runners. With Seth McWilliams now on to pitch for ASU, sophomore Sam Vogel laid down a sacrifice bunt that advanced both runners. After senior David Guarno drew a walk, junior Ben Crumpton hit a sac fly to right field that scored Parma to give UALR a 3-2 lead.
ASU threatened in the bottom of the eight, putting runners on first and third after junior Dillon Moritz hit Drew Burks with a pitch and surrendered a single to Massanelli. Buckley came on to pitch following Massanelli's single and struck out Austin Baker for the second out of the inning. Following a walk to Ryan Emery, Buckley was able to get Logan Uxa to pop up to third base for the final out of the inning.
First pitch of game three is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Tomlinson Field. Junior Ethan Schlechte will start for UALR, while Cody Woodhouse will toe the rubber for the Red Wolves.
Patrick Newton: Assistant Sports Information Director