STEPHENVILLE – The seventh-inning stretch must have loosened up the Texan offense as Tarleton pounded out three home runs, including an inside-the-park homer from Blake Burns, to win the series finale and earn a split with Arkansas-Fort Smith.
The game was a textbook definition of a pitcher’s duel through the first six innings.
Redshirt-sophomore Sid Payan earned his first start in over a year after coming back from an injury and was flawless in the first two innings of the game. The right-hander from El Paso went six up and six down in his debut before turning things over to Garrett Leggitt.
The freshman southpaw turned in the best performance of his young career – throwing five innings of relief and allowing one run on four hits and four walks while also striking out four. Leggitt got help from his defense in the form of three double plays and two weak grounders to strand a runner at third in the seventh that limited the Lions to their only run of the game.
Tarleton came out swinging in the ensuing half-inning when Jordan Parker turned on a hanging breaking ball and tied the game up with a single swing of the bat.
The Texans would take the lead on an RBI single from Tyler Fowler and then break the score wide open on a three-run tank to right center from Zach Mesa and an inside-the-park home run from Blake Burns off the centerfield wall. Tarleton scored all six runs in the seventh inning.
Ty Jones held the lead with a scoreless eighth inning before Zane Badmaev came on in the ninth and struck out the side to end the game.
Burns and Ian Groves paced the offense with two hits each while Fowler, Mesa, Parker and Corey Young had one hit each. Mesa’s three-run blast gave him the team lead with three RBI on the day.
Leggitt earned the win on the mound to improve to 2-1 on the season.
Tarleton will hit the road next weekend for a four-game series at Eastern New Mexico in Portales, beginning Friday at 5 p.m. CT.