Arkansas Tech (20-16, 7-10 GAC) fell to its Great American Conference opponent Southern Arkansas (25-13, 13-8 GAC) 4-0 on Friday and split on Saturday, winning 10-9 and then losing 18-6 in the night game at Tech field.
Tech produced 29 hits over the three-game series, 22 of which came on Saturday with the help of solid performances at the plate from junior shortstop Collin O’Neil (5-for-6) and senior designated hitter Kris Ayers (4-for-8).
“Offensively, we just weren’t sharp enough,” head coach Dave Dawson said. “I thought we hit the ball OK, but we couldn’t get hits with runners in scoring position. In the second game, we played and hit well, which allowed us to battle and win.”
In the first game, freshman third baseman Mark Vaughn went 3-for-4, while junior Cody Jones (5-2) pitched a complete game, giving up nine hits, three earned runs and striking out eight.
Despite having at least one runner on in the first seven of eight innings, Tech could not capitalize when runners were in scoring position, leaving it on the wrong side of the shutout loss.
“Jones pitched well enough to win the game, but we didn’t play very good defense behind him, which allowed a couple runs to score that beat us,” Dawson said.
A Muleriders’ sacrifice fly scored their first run. Dominant pitching from Southern Arkansas left Tech unable to respond offensively.
In the fourth, Southern Arkansas knocked in a two-run single up the middle, and the lead was extended to four runs in the sixth on another sacrifice fly.
The Wonder Boys had runners on second and third with two outs in the eighth but again could not come up with a RBI.
Senior Patrick Castleberry started the first game of Saturday’s double header with a two-run homer in the opening inning. The next batter, senior left fielder Cole Fergus, followed up with a solo shot.
Southern Arkansas went ahead in the fifth when the visitors scored four runs off three RBI singles. Ayers and O’Neil drove in a run each in the fifth and sixth innings, but the Muleriders added five scores in the seventh on three-run and two-run home runs to make it 9-5.
Fergus cut into the lead with a RBI double down the right field line in the bottom of the seventh. Senior catcher Kennan Jumper and O’Neil also contributed RBIs in the same inning, which brought Tech to within one.
Castleberry’s two-run double to left in the eighth scored the winning run.
Sophomore Trent Armstrong pitched 6.2 innings, gave up 12 hits and eight earned runs and fanned four. Junior Bryson Morris earned the win and junior Ryan Vruggink got the save in 2.1 innings of combined work.
The Muleriders drove in eight runs in the first two innings of the second game. O’Neil scored Fergus with a single in the fourth, but Southern Arkansas scored six runs in the fifth and four in the sixth en route to its 12-run win.
The Wonder Boys went 3-2 during spring break, with wins over Southeastern Oklahoma and Oklahoma Christian.
The Wonder Boys defeated Southeastern Oklahoma 13-9 on March 20 at Tech Field. On March 21, the Wonder Boys split with Southeastern, with an 11-8 win and 6-5 loss.
During a doubleheader in Oklahoma City, the Wonder Boys lost to Oklahoma Christian 6-1 before winning the second game 15-5.
The Wonder Boys will travel to play GAC opponent Southwestern Oklahoma State University (16-19, 9-12 GAC) in a three-game series starting Friday at 2 p.m.