College Baseball: Texas State storms back, notches 4-3 victory over Western Kentucky
From Staff Reports
MOBILE, Ala. — Cody Lovejoy might have felt like the baseball gods owed him a hit.
The junior outfielder received something even better.
Lovejoy picked up a sacrifice fly in the tenth inning to score Granger Studdard as Texas State walked off with a 4-3 victory over Western Kentucky during Wednesday’s first round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament at Stanky Field in Mobile, Ala.
With Lovejoy’s fly ball, the Bobcats finished off a comeback that saw them score three runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at 3-all.
“We had basically gone three games without a run,” Texas State head coach Ty Harrington said. “You could sense that our guys were getting frustrated, but they were opportunistic in the ninth. We get a walk and a hit batter. We had some good fortune on the tag play at the plate. You have to create your own breaks and we did that today.”
After Hilltopper starter Justin Hageman baffled Bobcat hitters for eight innings — and in the process extended the No. 4 seed's scoreless drought to 26 consecutive innings — Harrington's team probably wasn't complaining when head coach Matt Myers went to the bullpen in the ninth.
Anyone was better than Hageman, even if it meant Texas State had to face the SBC's best reliever in Ian Tompkins. WKU's junior left hander, who led the SBC with 15 saves, didn't last long as Studdard was hit by a pitch and Austin O'Neal walked on five pitches.
Myers had seen enough and went deeper into his bullpen, but neither Sam Higgs nor Brennan Pearson could rescue the No. 5 seed.
Following a Tyler Pearson RBI single and a bases loaded walk from Tanner Hill, Cory Geisler stepped to the plate with one out and a chance to tie the game for the Bobcats. Geisler lofted a sacrifice fly that scored Tyler Pearson on what turned out to be a lucky break.
Regan Flaherty fired a strike from right field, which beat Tyler Pearson to the plate. Hilltopper catcher Ryan Messex, however, dropped the ball and Texas State tied the game at 3-all.
A perfect inning from freshman reliever Dylan Bein in the top of the tenth kept the momentum in the Bobcats' dugout — and Lovejoy ended the game in the bottom half of the frame.
Perhaps it was appropriate that Lovejoy was the walk-off hero.
After all, the junior hit a screamer down the third-base line, which appeared destined for extra bases and likely would have plated a run in the sixth. Instead, WKU third baseman Leiff Clarkson backhanded the hard-hit ball and fired across the diamond for the final out of the sixth inning.
"He squirts the ball down the line and the third baseman makes a nice play on it," Harrington said. "That's baseball. It’s crazy how it works out every once in a while. I was happy to see Cody get that run across on the fly ball."
For a while, Texas State looked like it was going to waste another solid outing from Taylor Black, who notched a no-decision in last Friday's 1-0 loss to UT Arlington— despite a brilliant outing. Black didn't have his best stuff at times versus the Hilltoppers, but worked around five walks by striking out five and relying on his defense (10 ground ball outs).
"His breaker has been really good," Harrington said of Black, who limited WKU to two runs over six innings. "Even when they scored early, he was still pitching well. When Taylor pitches, there is going to be contact. They had an opportunity to do something early and he was able to pitch out of it."
Relievers Andrew Boes and Justin Dellinger kept the Bobcats in the game and Bein took over the mantle in the tenth with a lights-out, two-strikeout frame.
"Dylan was really good," Harrington said. "The angle on his fastball and breaker were special. He seized the opportunity to keep momentum in our dugout and rolled with it."
Now, Texas State will play No. 1 seed UL Lafayette at 4 p.m. Thursday. The winner of the game will receive a bye, while the loser will play either WKU or UL Monroe in an elimination game Friday.
— Joe Vozzelli