MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Arkansas State came up with big hits early and late Tuesday in the Sun Belt Conference baseball tournament.
Designated hitter Sky-Lar Culver belted the last of the Red Wolves’ seven extra-base hits, a three-run double with one out in the ninth inning to lift ASU to a 9-6 victory over Troy in a pool play game at Riverwalk Stadium.
ASU led 6-0 after launching four home runs in the first three innings. Troy slowly worked its way back into the game, eventually scoring single runs in the seventh and eighth innings to pull into a 6-6 tie.
Red Wolves third baseman Ben Klutts singled with one out in the ninth. Right fielder Tyler Duncan followed with a double, putting runners on second and third base, and the Trojans intentionally walked left fielder Jaylon Deshazier.
Culver crushed a 1-1 pitch to right-center field to score three runs, giving the Red Wolves a 9-6 lead. ASU closer Kollin Stone gave up a leadoff double in the ninth before retiring the next three batters to end the game.
ASU (19-29) will play West No. 2 seed Texas-Arlington (25-29) on Thursday at 3 p.m. A victory would put the Red Wolves in Saturday’s semifinals as the winner of Pool D, but the Mavericks would clinch a semifinal berth with a victory since they would advance in the event of a three-way tie as the highest seed in the three-team pool.
UTA and Troy (27-25) will play Friday in a game that will not impact which team advances.
ASU built a 6-0 lead with a power surge in the first three innings.
Center fielder Drew Tipton singled to lead off the game and Klutts followed with a one-out infield single. Duncan belted an opposite-field double to left for a 1-0 lead.
First baseman Jared Toler and second baseman Garrett Olson, the eighth and ninth batters in the Red Wolves’ lineup, launched back-to-back solo home runs in the second inning. Tipton was hit by the last pitch thrown by Troy starter Kyle Gamble and catcher Liam Hicks greeted reliever Orlando Ortiz with a two-run home run that made the score 5-0.
Culver’s solo home run gave ASU a 6-0 lead in the third inning, but that would be all the Red Wolves could muster until the ninth.
Troy began to rally in the bottom of the third as Donovan Whibbs hit a leadoff triple and scored on Drew Frederic’s single. Logan Cerny hit a double and Rigsby Mosley’s sacrifice fly pulled the Trojans within 6-2.
The Trojans added a run on an ASU error in the fourth, but Red Wolves starter Carter Holt got Cerny to fly out with two runners on base to end the inning. Caleb Bartolero’s solo home run in the fifth pulled Troy within 6-4.
Pinch hitter William Sullivan singled home a run in the seventh for the Trojans and Bartolero’s two-out RBI single tied the game in the eighth. Stone got the final out of the eighth on a grounder to second with two runners on base.
Stone (1-2) threw 48 pitches in 2 1/3 innings to earn the victory, giving up one run on four hits. He struck out two batters in the ninth.
Holt pitched the first 4 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on 10 hits, while Jack Jumper yielded one run on four hits in 2 1/3 innings. None of ASU’s three pitchers issued a walk.
Culver was 2-for-5 with four runs batted in to lead the Red Wolves. Tipton was 3-for-4 and scored two runs; and Hicks was 1-for-4 with two RBI. Klutts was 2-for-4, while Duncan was 2-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI. Toler and Olson had one hit and one RBI each.
Dalton Sinquefield, Jesse Hall and Bartolero had three hits each for the Trojans. Reliever Marquez Oates (3-2) took the loss for the Trojans.