STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton used the long ball and came up with big outs from the mound to strand the bases loaded in the seventh and eighth innings to knock off No. 6 West Texas A&M 7-3 in the second game of the four-game series.
“We’re really proud of the energy and effort the boys showed up with today,” said head coach Bryan Conger. “They are doing a great job of staying engaged and bringing that team energy to one another. Now it becomes the same as yesterday. Take a breath and get ready to get after it again tomorrow.”
With the win, Tarleton moves two games behind West Texas A&M for the top spot in the Lone Star Conference standings.
“It was nice to see the stands packed for a game like this,” said Conger. “These kids work really hard all year long and deserve to play in front of a packed house. We would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all the fans that came out and we hope to see the same tomorrow.”
For the second straight game, Blake Adams made noise from the first pitch as the Texan senior lined a leadoff home run on the first pitch of the afternoon to the Tarleton offense. It was the 14th home run of the season for Adams, who is now five away from tying Michael Cantu (19) for the single-season record.
Tarleton’s 1-0 lead carried until the top of the third when the Buffs cracked the run column to even things at 1-1.
Jake Hasbrouck got the offense rolling again in the fourth when the senior first baseman ripped a double off the top of the right-center wall and later came around to score on a two-out wild pitch to put the Texans on top 2-1.
The long ball would come in handy over the next two innings as Tarleton tacked on three in the fifth on a three-run home run by Francisco Rodriguez and two more in the sixth on a sacrifice fly from Ruben Rodriguez and a solo homer by Luke Morton to push the Tarleton lead out to 7-1. For Francisco, his three-run home run was made even more special by the fact his mother, Jennifer, made the trip to Stephenville from Venezuela for Senior Weekend to see her son play for the first time in the United States.
West Texas A&M tried to put together a rally in the seventh when the Buffs plated two and had the bases loaded with two away, but Connor Flanagan came on out of the bullpen and got a fly ball to Rodriguez in center to escape the jam with Tarleton leading 7-3.
A similar situation arose in the ensuing WT frame when the Buffs once again loaded the bases with two away forcing Conger to dip into the bullpen. The 10th year skipper turned to his newly crowned all-time saves leader, Eddie Avila.
Avila didn’t disappoint as the senior came on and got the WT third baseman looking on strikes to escape the jam and head into the ninth. Avila got a strikeout and a game-ending double play to finish off his 12th save of the season, which leads all of NCAA Division II.
The save finished off the seventh win of the season for Evan Pontley, who tossed 6.2 innings and allowed three runs on four hits while striking out seven. Connor Flanagan pitched an inning of relief to bridge the gap.
Tarleton’s offense pounded out 10 hits, including two each from Morton, Rodriguez, and Hasbrouck, while Adams, Elvin Alamo, Jared McCarver, and Tyler Fowler had one hit each.
The Texans and Buffs will close out the series tomorrow with a 1 p.m. doubleheader in Stephenville. There will be a postgame ceremony to recognize Tarleton’s 15 seniors.