JONESBORO- A grand slam in the sixth inning and a stellar defensive performance by the Arkansas State baseball team saw the Red Wolves take down Stephen F. Austin 8-4 in A-State’s opening series finale Feb. 16.
Jaylon Deshazier batted in four runs when the junior hit a grand slam in the sixth inning as the Red Wolves jumped out to a 5-0 lead. Earlier in the inning Colten Nix hit an RBI double as Ben Klutts scored the Red Wolves’ first run of the game.
“It was great (for my confidence),” Deshazier said. “It kind of works out because I’ve hit two grand slams since I’ve been here. It just helps me because I only had one hit Friday and yesterday I didn’t get a hit. That hit worked out. It was a big hit in a big moment and I’m glad I did get that hit. It helped out and we got the win, so I’m happy.”
During preseason, A-State head coach Tommy Raffo talked about the importance of defence and the Red Wolves finished this series with zero errors. In the second inning, the Red Wolves’ defense came up with two major game-changing plays.
With runners on second and third in a 0-0 game, A-State starting pitcher Chandler Coates’ ball got away from catcher Cullen Ray. Ray quickly picked up the ball and tossed it to Coates covering home. Coates tagged Jared Martin for an out and saved a run.
Moments later, SFA’s Dillion Eatman was thrown out at home plate after Klutts collected a ground ball at third base and threw it to Ray who applied the tag.
Two runs were saved in quick succession in the second inning and defensive preparation proved effective.
“The opportunity to get an out presented itself,” Raffo said. “Ray to Coates was a practice play. This happens in practice with Coach Hardy. We had a ball that was hit right at third and you come home with it. That’s a practice play we practice with our infield and Drew LaBounty works on. So again these are practice plays that are in a way kind of routine and the opportunity presented itself for the out and we got it.”
Coates (1-0) pitched seven runless innings and registered five strikeouts in his first start of the season. Coates pitched a clean game and only walked one batter.
“Outstanding,” Raffo said. “I think they had momentum almost swing and when he got that, I felt like it was like ‘OK, I got this.’ So you saw from the third all the way to the seventh he was pretty much in control of the game.”
Despite not allowing any runs and only walking one batter, Coates said he felt like he did not have his best day on the mound.
“I didn’t really have the best stuff today,” Coates. “I was able to rely on defense. I just tried to execute pitches in the zone. They got put in play and we have the defence behind me to make the plays. Which, we’ve been doing really good so far this year.”
The Red Wolves held a comfortable 6-0 lead heading into the eighth inning as Max Gehler came in to pitch for A-State.
Gehler committed two balks and one balk let a run score. Then SFA’s Gabe Irwin hit an RBI single to bring the game to a 6-2 scoreline.
Then, Jack Jumper came into pitch for the Red Wolves and allowed a two-run home run by Martin for the Lumberjacks.
A seemingly comfortable six run lead gave way to a slender two run lead at a 6-4 scoreline.
However, in the bottom of the eighth Liam Hicks came to the plate and hit a two run home run over the right field fence to seal the game for A-State 8-4.
A-State registered an overall series win as the Red Wolves won two of their three games against the Lumberjacks to open the season.
“Any coach will tell you across college baseball winning two out of three in a series is huge,” Raffo said. “It doesn’t matter who you play, when you play, where you play. Two out of three in a three game set is what you shoot for. Most of the time the odds say you split after games one and two. It’s hard to see sweeps on either side. They do happen but you have to have some crazy things go on in a series. Two out of three is good for this club to start out with.”
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