LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (5/18/12) - The Arkansas State Red Wolves built a 10-1 lead after six and one-half innings, but had to hold on to survive a late UALR rally and secure a 10-8 victory over the Trojans Friday night at Gary Hogan Field.
UALR scored four in the seventh and three in the ninth to cut the ASU lead to two, and had two aboard when second baseman Chris Burk launched a deep fly ball to left field, but Arkansas State's Logan Uxa made the catch with his back against the wall to end the game and give A-State the series victory over the Trojans (26-27, 12-17).
With the victory, ASU improved to 31-21 overall and 18-9 in the Sun Belt Conference. The Red Wolves trail Florida Atlantic (19-8) in the SBC standings by one game, with only tomorrow's regular-season finale remaining. With an ASU win and an FAU loss to Florida International Saturday, the Red Wolves would finish in a first-place tie with the Owls. With its 4-3 win over FIU Friday night, FAU guaranteed itself the top seed in next week's SBC Tournament, with A-State now locked into the No. 2 seed.
"UALR is a good team, and we knew coming in it was going to be a tough day," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "They can hit and they do a wonderful job in this park, and you saw what they did in the end. They didn't give in, and we had to do everything we could to be able to hold the line."
"We felt like their starter would give them some quality innings, and we knew they would make a run," added Raffo. "Whenever you face them you know they make runs, and at their park, runs are a big momentum shift. So give them credit at the end because they made a good run."
UALR struck first, getting an RBI single from catcher Blake Johnson in the second to take a 1-0 lead, but the Red Wolves tied the game in the third, then sent 10 men to the plate in the fourth, scoring four runs in the inning to take a 5-1 lead.
Catcher Ryan Roberts bounced a double off of the left-center wall to get aboard in the third, then scored on a base hit from center fielder Michael Faulkner. Roberts and designated hitter Ryan Emery both drove in runs in the fourth, while right fielder Kaleb Brown and first baseman Zach George both drew bases-loaded walks for the 5-1 ASU advantage.
A two-out base hit from third baseman Claude Johnson drove in George in the sixth to extend the A-State lead to 6-1, and a two-run single from second baseman Anthony Hecht made it 8-1 before UALR was able to get out of the inning.
A two-out, two-run home run from George in the seventh gave the Red Wolves a nine-run cushion, but UALR got the runs back in the bottom of the inning when Burk matched George with a two-run shot to cut the ASU lead to 10-3. UALR finished the frame with two more runs to trim the deficit to 10-5, then sent eight men to the plate in the ninth, scoring three times before Burk just missed winning the game on what would have been a three-run walkoff home run.
Emery went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored to lead the Red Wolves, and Faulkner, George, Hecht and Roberts all added two hits. Johnson was 3-for-4 with three RBIs to lead the Trojans.
Junior starter Daniel Wright (3-5) worked six innings to pick up the win for Arkansas State. Wright gave up three runs on seven hits, striking out three and walking one. Blake Huffman (5-4) took the loss for UALR, giving up five runs on six hits while striking out six and walking two in 3.2 innings of work.
The Red Wolves will go for the series sweep Saturday at 1:00 p.m.
GAME NOTES • Junior Logan Uxa extended his on-base streak to 23 games with a single in the fourth, which is a team high. Sophomore Zach George's on-base streak is at 13 games after drawing a walk in the fourth. Junior Zach Maggio's on-base streak now stands at 17 games, although he did not play in Friday's game. • Friday's game was the 100th meeting between the two teams. ASU leads the series • Junior center fielder Michael Faulkner stole second and third in the ninth inning for his 35th and 36th stolen bases of the season, adding to his ASU record. The stolen bases bring his career total to 77, which is seven short of the career record of 84 set by Jerome Miller from 1976-79. • Arkansas State has now recorded its highest win total in head coach Tommy Raffo's four years at ASU - capturing its 31st victory of the season Friday night. • The Red Wolves' 18 conference victories are the second-most in school history. • The win was Arkansas State's eighth straight over UALR.