STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton lived on both ends of the emotional spectrum in Saturday’s doubleheader as a gut-wrenching loss in the opener resulted in a powerful display of valiant tenacity that culminated in a thrilling victory in the nightcap of a Texans’ split with UAFS.
Game 1: Arkansas-Fort Smith 11, Tarleton 9
Tarleton suffered a loss on the wrong end of a seventh-inning rally as the Arkansas-Fort Smith Lions scored eight runs in the top of the seventh to defeat the Texans 11-9 in the opening game of Saturday’s twin bill.
Tarleton was in complete control over the first six innings. The Texans put up two in the second on RBI at bats from Cody Vannoy and Dean Frew. Then Tarleton broke out the big sticks with a five spot in the third on two-run home runs from Blake Burns and Jordan Parker. Zach Mesa added an RBI single that inning, as well.
After UAFS got on the board with a three-run homer in the fifth, Tarleton answered with two more when Blake Burns scored on a wild pitch and Cody Vannoy drove in Luke Morton with an RBI single to extend the lead to 9-3.
UAFS would ultimately score eight in the seventh on a Tarleton error, an RBI single, and two home runs – a two-run shot and a grand slam. Tarleton got two runners on base in their half of the seventh but couldn’t push any more across.
Hunter Thomas tossed a career high 6.1 innings of work and struck out five. Tyler Thompson and Luke Baley also pitched in relief. Baley was saddled with the loss in 0.2 innings.
Blake Burns led the offense with a three-hit outing, going 3-5 with three runs scored and two RBI. Corey Young, Cody Vannoy, and Zach Mesa each had two-hit performances while Tyler Fowler, Wade Raburn, Luke Morton, Parker, and Frew had one hit each. Every Tarleton starter had at least one hit in the game.
Game 2: Tarleton 6, Arkansas-Fort Smith 2
Tarleton’s tenacity was on full display in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. The Texans picked themselves up, dusted off the loss from the opener and took care of business in the nightcap – earning a 6-2 victory.
Luke Baley, who finished game one, got his first career start in game three and was stellar through the first four innings. The junior right-hander struck out four and didn’t walk a batter while allowing four hits and a pair of unearned runs. He gave way to John Bridgeman out of the pen, who faced just one batter over the minimum in a flawless fifth inning.
Meanwhile the offense was doing its part.
Jordan Parker got the scoring started with a two-run double in the first inning and then the Texans got long-ball happy for the rest of their four runs. Tyler Fowler ripped a two-run shot to right center in the second. Then Ian Groves and Luke Morton peppered the Washington Street net over left field in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively, to extend the lead.
Holding a 6-2 lead, Michael Pilato came on in relief in the sixth and sat the Lions down in order with a pair of strikeouts. In the seventh, a few close calls that went in UAFS’ favor helped the Lions load the bases with a walk, a single, and a hit by pitch.
But Pilato rose to the challenge and got the swinging strikeout to end the game and deliver the win.
Corey Young led the offense with a three-hit performance while Parker and Groves had two hits each. Fowler, Wade Raburn, Blake Burns and Morton had one hit each to round out the team’s 11-hit effort.
Tarleton will try to salvage a series split in the finale tomorrow at 1 p.m. in Stephenville.