Wonder Boys win final two games at Minute Maid

LAURA BEAN/THE ARKA TECH: Keenan Jumper swings through a pitch during a game at Tech Field last season.

After losing its first two games to St. Mary’s (2-2) and Henderson State (4-0) by five runs in each showing, No. 17 Arkansas Tech (4-4) broke even and won its latter two games against No. 22 Central Missouri (2-2) and Tarleton State (2-2) at the Houston Winter Invitational at Minute Maid Park on Feb.5-Sunday.

On Thursday, the Rattlers got up on Tech 2-0 quick through the first three innings on a sacrifice fly and a RBI single to center field, and the Wonder Boys were able to score their first run on a balk in the fourth.

A two-run home run in the sixth followed by a single run stemming from an error in right field led to an extension of St. Mary’s lead, but Tech would score four runs in the bottom of the inning to tie the game at 5-5.

Junior shortstop Collin O’Neil stole home for the first run of the comeback inning. Junior second baseman Caleb McKinnon then smacked a double down the left field line for an RBI, and senior right fielder Bryan Heward knocked a sacrifice line drive into left to bring in another run. The Wonder Boys knotted the game when freshman third baseman Mark Vaughn singled up the middle of the field to drive in McKinnon.

LAURA BEAN/THE ARKA TECH: Keenan Jumper swings through a pitch  during a game at Tech Field last season.
LAURA BEAN/THE ARKA TECH: Keenan Jumper swings through a pitch during a game at Tech Field last season.

But it was all St. Mary’s the rest of the way, as the Rattlers hit three RBI doubles in the final three innings of the contest. St. Mary’s final run came on a two-run RBI single up the middle in the ninth that secured the 10-5 win over Tech.

O’Neil and senior designated hitter Kris Ayers both managed to get two hits and a run, with McKinnon, Heward and Vaughn all adding RBIs. Tech could not slow down St. Mary’s at the plate, as junior Zach Skelton allowed six hits and five walks through five and two-thirds innings of work. Two of the five runs he gave up were because of Wonder Boy errors in the field.

In Friday morning’s 8-3 loss to Great American Conference opponent HSU, the Reddies commanded the game by the will of starting man Chris Hunt, who gave up no runs or hits to the Wonder Boys through six innings and earned the win on the mound.

A three-run homer in the third started off scoring for HSU, which was followed up in the same inning by a two-run double to right center field. The Reddies added runs in the fourth on a fielder’s choice, the fifth with a single RBI to right and the sixth with an RBI walk that put HSU up 8-0.

Heward (1/1, 3 RBIs, 1 HR, 2 walks) was responsible for all Tech scoring, as he hit a sacrifice fly RBI in the seventh and a two-run home run in the ninth, but this was the only noise the Wonder Boys made at the plate.

Sophomore starter Trent Armstrong gave up five hits and five runs through two and two-thirds innings to earn the loss, and the Tech bullpen, along with a lack of offense, couldn’t dig the Wonder Boys out of the hole HSU had put them in.
Tech’s first win of the invitational came Saturday afternoon in a 2-0 victory over No. 22 Central Missouri, the only ranked opponent faced in Houston.

Four members of the Wonder Boys pitching staff shut out the Mules, allowing only four hits. Junior starter Cody Jones (2-0) earned the win, striking out four batters and giving up four hits and three walks through seven solid innings of pitching. Juniors Bryson Morris and Ryan Vruggink retired five batters and gave up no hits, and senior closer Randy Vallejo picked up the final out and his first save of the year.

Senior catcher Patrick Castleberry’s RBI double to left field in the first inning gave the Wonder Boys the early lead, and Heward provided cushion in the eighth with an RBI single to left.

Senior second baseman John Lassiter led the way offensively by going three for four and stealing a pair of bases as well. McKinnon and O’Neil both recorded two hits each in the win.

Sunday night’s 6-5 win against Tarleton State was a back-and-forth contest the whole way through, culminating in an overall impressive performance at the plate: 13 hits, a home run, two triples and two doubles.

Heward went three for five with three RBIs in addition to knocking in the game winning run, Castleberry managed to go two for two with three walks and O’Neil and Vaughn both had a pair of hits and runs.

The Texans got on the board first in the top of the second with the help of a wild pitch, but Tech answered in the bottom half when freshman center fielder Seth Wheeler hit a single to center that drove in Vaughn.

A pair of RBI singles to center field from both teams in the third again tied the game at 2-2. In the fifth, Tarelton State singled down the right field line to score two runs, but once again the Wonder Boys would not lay down, as senior left fielder Cole Fergus sent a two-run home run over the left field fence, tying it up 4-4.

In the seventh, the Texans doubled for an RBI shot on the right field line. With two outs already against the Wonder Boys in the eighth inning, they rallied and finally surpassed Tarleton State when Heward’s single to second base drove in two runs and put Tech ahead for the eventual win.

Tech will travel to Ouachita Baptist (3-4) on Friday at 2 p.m.