Harold Coggins: Wonder Boys Continue To Electrify


Wonder Boys Lead Field of Arkansas GAC Teams Heading to Tourney

True to form, the No. 5 Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys rolled into the Great American Conference 2014 Baseball Championship Tournament by extending its win streak to 22 games with a three-game sweep of Harding and won the GAC regular-season title last weekend. No. 25 Arkansas-Monticello took two of three games from No. 12 Southern Arkansas to secure the tournament’s second seed. But the conference highlight of the week came at Clyde Berry Field in Arkadelphia, where Ouachita Baptist ruled the Battle of the Ravine.

The Tigers won all three games with bitter rival Henderson State “on the road,” or on Henderson’s side of 10th Street, to earn the final spot in the conference postseason tournament, which will begin on Saturday, May 3 at David Allen Memorial Ballpark in Enid, Okla. For the second year in a row, five Arkansas teams made the conference tournament—and for the second straight year, only Southwestern Oklahoma State kept it from being an all-Arkansas field.

Top-seeded Tech (41-8, 25-5 in GAC play) will face No. 6 Ouachita (24-26, 16-14) at noon, No. 2 UAM (33-13, 22-8) plays No. 5 SWOSU (24-21, 16-14) at 3:30 p.m. and No. 3 Southern Arkansas (34-16, 18-12) gets its tournament started against No. 4 Harding (26-22, 16-14) at 7 p.m. The double-elimination tourney will crown its champion on Tuesday, May 6, with the winner earning the GAC’s first-ever automatic bid to the NCAA Division II baseball postseason. But with three GAC teams ranked among the top four in the NCAA’s Central Region, it’s a pretty good bet that the GAC tourney champ will be joined by at least two other league teams in the quest for the D2 College World Series.

Heading into Saturday’s doubleheader against cross-road rival Henderson State, Ouachita knew it needed to win one to claim the final spot in the GAC tournament. Leaving nothing to chance, the Tigers outscored the Reddies 18-4 to win both games and sweep the series. Saturday’s 9-3 and 9-1 scores followed a series-opening 5-2 OBU win on Friday.

Luis DeJesus (7-5) pitched an eight-inning gem in game one Saturday. Allowing only three runs on 10 hits, striking out three and walking no one, DeJesus kept the ball down low in the strike zone and picked up 14 ground-ball outs. Tyler Faught went 4-for-5 in game one and scored three of the Tigers’ nine runs. Matt Sinclair and Keegan Ghidotti each went 2-for-5 with one RBI each. Landon Moore drove in two runs in the game, one of six Tigers to drive in a run.

Eight Tigers would account for 13 hits in game two, with Moore leading the way with three. Moore also drove in two runs, giving him four RBI on the day. Ghidotti, Jace Melby and Will Wallace also drove in two runs each. The Tigers hit a combined .365 Saturday against the Reddie pitching staff. Tryce Schalchlin got the win in game two to improve his record to 4-2. He held the Reddies scoreless over two innings. Jacob May pitched three innings of relief to get the save, allowing one hit and fanning one batter. The trio of Tiger pitchers, including starter Craig Daniell, held Henderson State to one run on five hits through seven innings.

In Searcy, Jay Johnson went 4-for-5 in the opener and Patrick Castleberry added three hits, while Mason Reynolds tossed six scoreless innings in the nightcap as the Wonder Boys became the first team other than SAU to win a regular-season title in GAC baseball. Tech won the opener 6-5 and took Saturday’s nightcap 2-0 following a 3-2 series-opening win on Friday. With the win in Saturday’s doubleheader opener, the Wonder Boys clinched their first outright conference title since the 1992 season.

Saturday, the Wonder Boys drew first blood in game one but had to rally from a 5-2 deficit to keep their winning streak intact. Arkansas Tech loading the bases with one out in the fifth and, four runs later, Tech had its regular-season title. Jay Johnson’s infield single and three consecutive bases-loaded freebies—Jumper and James Sharp being hit by pitches and Sage Boehner drawing a walk—put the Wonder Boys ahead 6-5.

While Saturday’s opener was a slugfest, the nightcap was a pitchers’ duel. Boehner’s a two-out, solo home run in the third inning and Jumper scoring on a wild pitch in the seventh provided the only scoring. Reynolds stopped the Bisons at every turn, giving up just four hits and three walks in his six innings of work. Randy Vallejo picked up his Division II-best 17th save of the season to finish game two. Friday, Boehner and John Lassiter had two hits apiece and five Arkansas Tech pitchers combined to hold Harding to just six hits in Tech’s one-run win.

And in Monticello, UAM picked up two walk-off wins to not only post its fifth straight GAC series win (and its first series win against SAU since 2001) but give coach John Harvey win No. 100 as Boll Weevil head coach in four years at the UAM helm. And with Saturday’s game one victory, UAM surpassed its win total from a year ago. The 33 wins this season now ranks second all-time in program history. 

In an error-plagued series opener on Friday afternoon, the Weevils posted a 5-4, 10-inning victory when D’Marco Poindexter scored on an SAU throwing error. In Saturday’s opener, the Muleriders took a two-run lead into the bottom of the ninth, only to see UAM score three times for a 3-2 victory. SAU shut out UAM 3-0 in Saturday’s nightcap to salvage one win during the weekend.

The Weevils took the series in dramatic fashion, plating three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning of Saturday’s first game on a two-run double from Tyler Caruthers and Alex Lang’s game-ending RBI single. SAU went up 2-0 in the top of the ninth inning on back-to-back doubles from Jon Phillips and Telvin Darden. Poindexter gunned down Darden at the plate trying to score on a single by Kory Keith in the next at-bat to kill the SAU rally. The Muleriders opened the low-scoring affair on an RBI single from Tyler Cameron in the top of the second inning. Kregg Snook (3-1) earned his second win of the series, both in relief, holding the Muleriders to just one run off four hits in the final 3.2 innings.

In the series finale, SAU starter Yumezo Densaki (4-3) kept the UAM hitters off balance the entire game, scattering five hits with eight strikeouts and only one walk in his complete-game victory. The Muleriders plated runs on back-to-back RBI singles in the fourth from Justin Buchanan and Josh Rodriguez. Rodriguez gave SAU its insurance run on an RBI single in the top of the sixth to finalize the scoring.

Friday, the Weevils allowed two unearned runs in the top of the first inning off of two errors and later gave up an unearned run off a throwing error in the top of the ninth to force extra innings. UAM plated the game-winning run in the bottom of the 10th off a throwing error from the SAU shortstop. Poindexter led of the inning with a single, moved to second on Tyler Caruthers’ sacrifice bunt and covered two bases on what should have been a groundout to shortstop during Evan Comeau’s at-bat. Instead, the throw could not be handled at first base, giving Poindexter enough time to cross the plate.

Following SAU’s two-run first, UAM tied the game with single runs in the bottom of the second and fourth innings off an SAU wild pitch in the second and an RBI single by Corey Wood in the fourth. But the Muleriders regained the lead off an RBI single by Jackson McCurdy in the top of the fifth. 

Ray Johnson and Chad Miller each had an RBI single in UAM’s two-run fifth to give the Weevils a 4-3 lead, the last runs scored before the error in the ninth. UAM pounded out 12 hits in the win, two hits each for Johnson, Wood, Caruthers, Bronson Gillam and Ben Agredano. SAU’s Rodriguez had two of SAU’s seven total hits in the contest.


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