BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Louisiana-Monroe scored three runs in the eighth inning and beat Arkansas State 4-2 to win the Sun Belt Conference championship Sunday and earn an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Louisiana-Monroe scored three runs in the eighth inning and beat Arkansas State 4-2 to win the Sun Belt Conference championship Sunday and earn an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

Arkansas State, which finished second overall in the conference regular season, ended its season at 34-23. Former Pine Bluff High School star Claude Johnson, who was a designated hitter in the game, had two hits, as did Alex Potts, to lead the Red Wolves.

Johnson also was named to the tournament team.

Senior Jacob Lee struck out seven in six innings and gave up one run on five hits and three walks for the Wolves.

“It was a hard-fought game with lots of emotion,” A-State coach Tommy Raffo said. “You had two number-one pitchers that went after it and gave it all they had. We couldn’t ask for anything else from Jake, what a wonderful effort on his part. It was more than we thought we could get form him.”

Each team hit a home run in the second inning, but A-State took a 2-1 lead on a Zach George sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. ULM (31-28) answered with runs on a double, a single and a hit batsman all in the eighth inning.

The Red Wolves had runners on first and second in the eighth but Wil Browning retired three straight to end the threat. He responded again in the ninth by sitting down three in a row after drawing a leadoff walk and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Brandon Farley (2-4) took the loss after giving up the three runs on two hits in 1 1/3 innings.