STEPHENVILLE – Eastern New Mexico had chances to tie or take the lead in three of the last four innings, but Tarleton turned the Greyhounds away with clutch pitching and ‘one of the better catches (head coach Bryan Conger has) witnessed in 20 years’ to take game two of the series 5-4.
“The boys did a good job today of finding a way to get the win,” said Conger. “They were more prepared to get after it today and it paid off for us.”
Tarleton jumped on Eastern early by putting up a four-spot in the opening frame, beginning when Blake Adams coaxed a full-count walk to lead things off. The senior outfielder came around to plate the game’s first run when Ruben Rodriguez roasted the right fielder for an RBI double. Rodriguez came in to score on the next pitch on an RBI single into right from Luke Morton.
Jake Hasbrouck put an exclamation point on the inning with a two-run home run to straightaway center field for a 4-0 lead.
Tarleton added one more in the second on an error before Eastern New Mexico responded with four of their own in the third, capped off by a three-run home run to left to bring the game to 5-4. That score would hold up through the game, but not without some drama.
Eastern New Mexico led off the sixth with a double and later moved to third on a two-out passed ball, but Nathan Hickey came up big with a strikeout, a foul pop to the catcher, and a looking strikeout to close out the inning and keep the Texans on top.
In the seventh, the Greyhounds loaded the bases with one away and their three-hole hitter at the plate.
Enter, Jared McCarver.
The Greyhound hitter put, what appeared to be, a double into the right-center gap but McCarver saved the game with a full-extension, diving catch and throw back to first base to double off the base runner and get the Texans out of the jam.
“Jared’s catch in the seventh was one of the better catches I have witnessed in 20 years,” said Conger. “That was a major moment in the game and really turned the momentum late.”
While the offense couldn’t pad its lead, Eddie Avila came on in relief of Hickey and shut the Greyhounds down in the eighth with a 1-2-3 inning. In the ninth, Eastern got a one-out double to left and a grounder to move him to third with two outs, but Avila got the Greyhound leadoff hitter swinging to put the game on ice.
Hickey earned the win to improve to 7-1 on the season and 15-3 in his career, which ties him for the sixth most pitching wins in program history with Matt Buckmaster. Hickey tossed seven innings and allowed four runs – three earned – on five hits and four walks with six strikeouts.
Avila notched his sixth save of the season and 12th in his career, which ties him at No. 3 all-time with Ryan Turner. He allowed one hit while facing just one over the minimum.
Offensively, Tarleton had six hits for the game. Elvin Alamo had two for the Texans while Ruben, Morton, McCarver, Hasbrouck had one hit each.
Tarleton will return to action today at 1 p.m. for a doubleheader in Stephenville against the Greyhounds.