Never in his wildest dreams could University of Arkansas at Monticello baseball coach John Harvey have imagined a trip to Houston like his Boll Weevils completed late Tuesday afternoon. It took some dramatics to accomplish it but UAM was up to the task.
Senior center fielder D’Marco Poindexter deposited a walk-off, three-run home run over the left-field fence at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, to not only give the Weevils a 6-3 victory over Henderson State University but a clean sweep of their four games played during the season-opening Houston Astros Winter Invitational.
Sunday and Monday, UAM got past nationally ranked opponents. Sunday, the Weevils crushed No. 15 St. Mary’s (Texas) University 16-5 in a run-rule shortened game and Monday, UAM held on to defeat the No. 19 University of Central Missouri 4-2.
In their opener Saturday, the Weevils got the NCAA Division II baseball season underway with a 7-2 win over Arkansas Tech University, like UAM and Henderson State a member of the Great American Conference.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with how the weekend went,” Harvey said by text on his way home from Houston. “Ultimately, our goal for the weekend was to play well—and I feel like we did that.
“We got very good pitching in all four games. A big key to our pitching is how well we play defense, and we played very solid defense all weekend. We only had one infield error in the four games.”
With its perfect 4-0 start, UAM is doing its best to prove last season’s 32-20 overall and GAC Championship Tournament runner-up finish was no fluke. It doesn’t get any easier for the Weevils, though. Weather permitting, UAM is scheduled to host second-ranked Minnesota State University at Mankato this Saturday and Sunday in Monticello for a three-game series at Weevils Field. A Saturday doubleheader is slated to start at noon as is Sunday’s single game.
UAM won its four games in Houston in every way imaginable but none was more exciting than its finale on Tuesday. The Reddies tied the game a 3-all with two runs in the top of the ninth on an RBI groundout by Will Powell followed by an RBI double from Hunter Mayall.
In the bottom of the inning, the Weevils put runners on first and third with a pair of infield singles—by senior right fielder Tyler Caruthers and sophomore shortstop Evan Comeau—and a sacrifice bunt off the bat of senior third baseman Alex Lang to set up Poindexter’s game-winning blast.
“I told the guys coming in that the fourth win would not be easy,” Harvey noted, “and it wasn’t. Henderson played really well and their starter did a great job of keeping us off balance. They had big hits in the eighth and ninth (innings).
“It was really good to see us respond the way we did in the bottom of the ninth. It doesn’t get much better than walk-off home runs.”
UAM struck first with two runs in the bottom of the third inning on a sacrifice fly from senior second baseman Ben Agredano, followed immediately with an RBI double from junior pitcher/designated hitter Austin Braddock.
Both teams were held scoreless until the eighth, despite a bases-loaded, one-out situation for the Reddies in the top of the seventh. UAM junior reliever Kregg Snook induced a double play to Comeau to keep the Reddies off the board.
HSU broke up the shutout bid in the top of the eighth on a two-out RBI single from Ashton Roberts. Immediately, though, UAM got that run back in the bottom of eighth on a leadoff home run to left field by Agredano, his first round-tripper of the season.
Junior left-hander Jeff Harvill picked up the pitching win despite allowing the tying runs in the top of the ninth. Braddock kept the Reddies scoreless on only one hit in the first three innings of his first start as a Weevil.
The final game against Henderson State was merely icing on the cake for the Weevils, who impressed all in attendance with their results in the middle two games of the four-game set. To win one game against nationally ranked opposition would be great but to win both contests, one shortened by the 10-run lead rule, was nothing short of awesome, Harvey said.
“In the first three games we beat starting pitchers that had huge years last year. And for the most part, our offense was good. We had some really big hits when we needed them. I feel like our offense will continue to get better.”
Against Central Missouri, UAM led 4-1 after three innings. Both teams were held scoreless in the next four complete innings before UCM rallied in the eighth to get three runners on but only managed one run on an double from Barrett Noirfalise just before the Mules loaded the bases on a pair of walks.
UAM’s Braddock opened the scoring with a solo home run to left field in the top of the first inning. The Weevils added three more in the second, highlighted by a two-run double by Poindexter, his first hit of the 2014 season.
Poindexter moved to third and Comeau crossed the plate from third base in the next at bat on a wild pitch from UCM starter Kurtis Schuyler to give UAM a 4-0 lead. The Mules got on the board in the bottom of the third with an RBI single from Kevin Gratza.
Senior Kade Garlington earned the mound win, allowing one run off three hits with four strikeouts and three walks in the first six innings. Harvill picked up the save after getting the Weevils out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and keeping UCM off the board in the ninth as well.
UAM finished the game with a 7-6 margin in hits. Sophomore Corey Wood and Lang led the Weevils with two hits each against Central Missouri. A day earlier, though, hits weren’t so hard to come by as UAM trounced St. Mary’s.
The Weevils scored five runs in the sixth inning and added nine runs in the seventh en route to pounding out 13 hits against Rattler pitching. In his second at-bat of the seventh inning, Caruthers smashed a three-run home run to left field to cap UAM’s nine-run rally and end the game because of the NCAA’s 10-run mercy rule.
Caruthers started the frame by drawing a walk and later scored on a bases-clearing triple by Agredano later in the inning. Following a St. Mary’s pitching change, Agredano crossed the plate on a wild pitch on the first offering from new Rattler hurler Rick Villa. Senior Ray Johnson and Braddock both had run-producing hits before Caruthers’ game-ending round-tripper. Caruthers finished the game 3-for-4 at the plate with four RBI.
UAM came back from a two-run deficit with a five-run rally in the sixth inning, highlighted by a two-run single from Braddock, who finished the game 3-for-4 at the plate with three runs batted in.
St. Mary’s right fielder Brooks Orton broke a 2-all tie in the top sixth with a two-run home run to right field. The Rattlers added one more run in that inning on an RBI single from Joe Hermsen, the fourth and final hit of the rally.
UAM started the scoring in the bottom of the first on an RBI single from Braddock to score Poindexter, who led off the inning with a walk and moved to second on a single by Agredano. The Rattlers answered in the top of the second on a sacrifice fly from Mario Maldonado to tie the score at one run each.
The Weevils regained the lead in the third with an RBI single by Caruthers to score Braddock, who singled to left field to lead off the inning before St. Mary’s set up its three-run sixth by tying the score at 2-all in the top of the fifth on a solo home run down the left-field line by Jan Paul Reguero.
Junior Turner Neely earned the pitching win in relief for the Weevils after retiring the only batter he faced in the top of the sixth inning after the Rattlers had already gained the lead.
And in Saturday’s opener, the Weevils tallied six extra base hits in the win over Arkansas Tech. UAM had 10 hits total in the win, including five doubles and one home run.
Both teams plated one run in the second inning. Lang was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the top half of the inning to drive in Ray Johnson, who doubled earlier to reach and moved to third on a wild pitch. UAM left the bases loaded that inning for three of its final 12 runners left on base in the game. Tech answered in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single.
The Weevils regained the lead with two runs in the top of the fourth on an RBI single from Braddock followed by an RBI double from junior Bronson Gillam. UAM grabbed a 4-1 lead in the top of the fifth on a solo home run from Wood.
The Wonder Boys answered in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single from Zack Johnson to cut into UAM’s advantage but UAM finalized the scoring with three runs in the eighth inning, starting with an RBI double from Agredano that scored Comeau, who had started the rally with a one-out double to left center. Braddock drove in his second run of day and picked up his game-high third hit of the day with a double to right field to score Agredano. Gillam drove in Braddock on an RBI single in the next at bat.