NEW ORLEANS – Arkansas-Pine Bluff refused to go down without a fight, battling back from a 6-0 hole early and a 13-9 deficit late in the game, but the Alcorn State University baseball program won the seesaw battle 14-13 to keep its season going in Thursday's 2018 SWAC Tournament elimination game at Wesley Barrow Stadium.
The Golden Lions (21-24) knotted the score at 13-13 with four runs in the bottom of the eighth, highlighted by a three-run long ball to right. Alcorn responded with the decisive run in the top of the ninth. Brendly Martina hit a leadoff single to short, stole second, and moved up to third on a failed pickoff attempt by the UAPB catcher. The junior, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the third, then came in on a Devin Walden single up the middle. The Purple and Gold then retired the home team in order to bring the game to a close.
With the win, the Braves improve to 13-38 overall and will meet Jackson State in Friday's 9 a.m. win or go home matchup. The second-seeded Tigers dropped an 8-4 decision to top-seeded Texas Southern Thursday night. The winner of tomorrow's contest will play a second game at 3 p.m. versus TSU.
"The name of the game right now is to win and advance, and we were fortunate enough to get the win and go on to tomorrow," said head coach Bretton Richardson. "It's a testament to Coach [Carlos] James and his staff and his kids. To be down 6-0 after the second inning and continue to fight, and not only catch us but take the lead, you've got to take your hats off to them. But our guys didn't give up, we didn't hang our heads, even when we got behind in the ball game. We were able to scratch across some more runs and come out on top today."
Four batters recorded multi-hit performances for the Braves. Walden finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and a pair of runs scored. Kyle Jenkins batted 2-for-4 with a 2-run home run, a double, a walk, two runs, and two RBIs. Hunter Wilson hit 2-for-5, scored a run, and brought in two more, while Justin Barna went 2-for-6 with a triple, a double, two RBIs, and a run. Wallace Rios Jimenez also went deep with a two-run shot. The senior second baseman posted a 1-for-4 effort at the plate and earned a pair of free trips to first.
Razedrick Winters pitched 2.0 innings of relief to get the win and improve to 3-2. The senior from Jackson, Miss. gave up one run on as many hits and a walk and struck out one of the nine batters he faced. Starter Carlos Lopez went 7.0 innings and surrendered 12 runs (eight earned) on 14 hits and a pair of walks. The All-SWAC Second-Teamer saw 40 batters, fanning four of them in the no decision.
Alcorn jumped out to an early lead in the second as the Braves strung together six runs on five hits. A Wilson single to right and a Jenkins double down the left field line put runners in scoring position. A.J. Makarewicz brought the pair in as he found a hole through the left side of the defense. The senior shortstop stole second and came around on Nicholas Hayes-Saltare's double, also down the left field line. A wild pitch moved the Hollywood, Fla. native to third and Walden was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners. Barna then picked up an RBI on a groundout to short and Rios Jimenez drove the first pitch he saw over the wall in right center to make it a 6-0 ball game.
UAPB cut the lead in half with three runs in the bottom half of the second. The Golden Lions loaded the bases and got on the scoreboard on a fielder's choice out at second. The Black and Gold then attempted a sacrifice bunt with runners on the corners, but Alcorn looked back the runner at third and got the out at first. The home team put together a pair of infield hits though to bring in two more.
The Braves went up 8-3 with two runs on as many hits and errors in the fourth, but UAPB's offense finally got clicking in the bottom of the inning. The Golden Lions plated one run in the fourth and used a pair of two-run homers in the fifth to pull even. UAPB then took its first lead in the seventh courtesy of a leadoff triple and a hit to left.
Alcorn responded with a five-run eighth. Martina drew a walk and advanced to second on a Walden sac bunt. Barna then delivered with a triple to the gap in left center, tying the game yet again. Rios Jimenez and Der'Vincent Hamilton drew back-to-back walks to juice the bases for Wilson. The designated hitter singled to right and was out at second trying to stretch for a double, but another two runs came in on the play to put the Braves back on top 11-9. Jenkins then made it 13-9 as he belted an 0-1 offering over the left field wall.