NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The Lumberjacks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but Texas State rallied with three late scoring innings to slip by the ‘Jacks, 3-2, in the middle game of a three-game series at Jaycees Field on Friday.
It is just the second time this season that SFA (16-9, 6-4 Southland) has dropped consecutive games, while Texas State (17-8, 9-2 Southland) maintains its hold on first place in the league after winning its sixth straight overall.
Jared West allowed just one run in 5.2 innings in his first league start in two weeks, but it was his brother Jason that took the loss after allowing just one run in 2.1 innings of relief. Michael Russo got the start for Texas State, needing 119 pitches to navigate through only six innings, but Fielding Pittman earned the win after facing just batters and Garrett Carruth earned his second save in as many days by striking out the only hitter he faced in the ninth with the tying run on second.
The ‘Jacks still managed nine hits on the day, but it was a tough day for the middle order as SFA's 3-6 hitters were just 2-for-17 on the day. Garrett Smith finished with his second consecutive 3-for-5 day and Jordan Lewis also added a pair of hits to lead the SFA attack.
It only took SFA two at-bats to take a quick 1-0 lead after a leadoff single from Smith was followed by a hard-hit double from Tanner Hines that scored Smith from first and extended his hit streak to a team-best 15 games. Bobby Loveless then got Hines home two batters later with an RBI single to left, but Russo managed to set down the next two SFA hitters to minimize the damage.
That would be all the scoring the ‘Jacks would be able to muster on the day despite putting at least one runner in scoring position in five of the final eight innings of the day. Meanwhile, Jared West was pitching in and out of trouble on the mound for the ‘Jacks, keeping the Bobcats off the scoreboard until the sixth, despite allowing six hits and five walks.
It wasn't until Jeff McVaney hit his second home run of the series, solo home run with one out in the sixth, that the ‘Cats cracked the scoreboard. Texas State knotted it one inning later when Tyler Sibley led off with what should have been a routine single up the middle, but the sophomore made a savvy baserunning move and beat the SFA defense to second to leg out a double. Two fly balls followed, each advancing Sibley a base and the last one coming off the bat of Kyle Livingstone to tie the score.
The ‘Jacks then helped out the Bobcats in the seventh as Jason West slightly clipped the jersey of pinch hitter Shaun Garcia to lead things off. After a sacrifice bunt and a foul out, Bret Atwood delivered what would be the game-winning run with his only hit in five tries on the day, a line-drive single to right field that brought Garcia home and put Texas State ahead for good at 3-2.
SFA did threaten, to score in the ninth as shortstop Jason Martinson booted a ground ball from Smith to let the leadoff runner on for the ‘Jacks; however, after a sacrifice bunt from Hines, Jeff McVaney struck out Darren Crabtree swinging for the second out and Carruth came on to strike out Loveless on three pitches to end things.
The series is set to conclude on Saturday with a 1:00 p.m. start time for the series finale. Justin Braddock is scheduled to start for the ‘Jacks, while Lee Colon is the probable starter for Texas State.