Jackson State pulls away late to top UAPB

UAPB third baseman Edwin De La Cruz awaits the ball as Jackson State leadoff hitter Jordan McCladdie slides into third base during Tuesday's baseball game at the Torii Hunter Baseball Complex in Pine Bluff. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
UAPB third baseman Edwin De La Cruz awaits the ball as Jackson State leadoff hitter Jordan McCladdie slides into third base during Tuesday's baseball game at the Torii Hunter Baseball Complex in Pine Bluff. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)

After falling behind early Tuesday, Jackson State used multiple big innings to pull away from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

The UAPB baseball team lost 14-4 in eight innings to Jackson State at the Torii Hunter Baseball Complex in Pine Bluff.

UAPB coach Carlos James said JSU's bullpen outpitched UAPB's.

"They threw strikes," James said. "Our guys came out of the bullpen and didn't throw strikes. When you don't throw strikes, and then all of a sudden you give up a hit, it kind of compounds. That was the story of the game."

UAPB (11-18) led 3-2 entering the top of the fifth with the Tigers' eighth hitter, second baseman Myles White, leading off. He doubled, then scored on an RBI single by first baseman Hasan Standifer to tie the game.

Jackson State (20-8) right fielder Jordan McCladdie hit a groundball to UAPB first baseman Brandon Simon. Simon threw out Standifer at second but couldn't handle the return throw from shortstop Trinidad De La Garza as McCladdie reached first base safely. McCladdie then advanced to third on a single from centerfielder Rodney Hibler Jr.

After UAPB starting pitcher Jordan Jones (0-3) struck out the next hitter, left fielder Joseph Eichelbarger reached on an error by De La Garza. McCladdie and Hibler scored on the play to give the Tigers the lead.

Another error and a hit batter loaded the bases, but De La Garza caught a line drive from JSU catcher Hederick Torres to end the inning.

Jones gave way to the bullpen after pitching five innings. He allowed 2 earned runs on six hits while striking out three hitters and walking one.

James said he would have liked to see a little more from the senior, but Jones overall pitched well.

"You have to take that start as a good one, and maybe he's earned hisself a right to maybe get a start maybe on a weekend," James said. "At some point, we may try to juggle that rotation up, because we've just been throwing the same guys every week. Sometimes, you got to have a spark."

The UAPB bullpen struggled the rest of the game. After scoring 3 runs in the fifth, the Tigers scored 3 more in each of the next three innings. UAPB used four relievers, and each recorded just two outs apiece.

Jackson State led 1-0 midway through the first inning after McCladdie reached on an error by Simon, then eventually scored on a passed ball. The Tigers' starting pitcher, Shemar Harris, struggled in the bottom half. He walked the first two hitters, hit De La Cruz with a pitch, then gave up a 2-RBI single to designated hitter Carlos Rodriguez-Velez. The Tigers pulled him after the hit with no outs. He went behind the dugout and threw his glove in frustration.

His bullpen made up for it. Lefthander Je-andrick Lourens entered the game and retired three of the next four hitters to end the inning, though not before De La Cruz scored on a passed ball to make UAPB's lead 3-1.

Lourens pitched through the end of the third inning, before giving way to Miles Thomas (1-0). Thomas earned the win after a two-inning outing in which he struck out three hitters and allowed one hit without a walk.

JSU cut it to 3-2 in the second. Jones retired six of the seven hitters he faced in the third and fourth innings before the Tigers took the lead in the fifth.

De La Cruz hit 3 for 3 with an RBI and a run to improve his batting average to .512, passing Georgia's Charlie Condon for the best average in the nation. He said he went to the plate expecting strikes.

"My objective was to harp on first pitch," De La Cruz said. "Because once we get behind, they can do whatever they want with you."

In the top of the eighth inning, a pitch in the dirt bounced up and caught UAPB catcher Brant Voth in the neck. He went down holding his neck as both teams' trainers came out to check on him before he left the game.

James said as a precaution, UAPB's trainer took him to the emergency room for evaluation.

"The great thing is, our trainer and Jackson State's trainer did a really good job of coming out there and getting him breathing," James said. "Kind of knocked the wind out of him, but we'll get someone to look at him tonight at the ER to make sure he's going to be OK."

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