Timely Offense from Stuart, Valenzuela Leads 'Jacks to 8-7 Comeback Win over HBU

Timely Offense from Stuart, Valenzuela Leads 'Jacks to 8-7 Comeback Win over HBU

From SFA Athletics

NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release)- After seeing a four-run lead vanish in the top of the seventh, the Stephen F. Austin baseball team called on a pair of pinch hitters – Stephen Stuart and Zach Valenzuela – to try and regain some of that lost momentum.

That plan went off without a hitch.

In the home half of the seventh, Stuart came up with a big RBI fielder's choice, the 'Jacks go-ahead run came around to score on the third Houston Baptist error of the night and Valenzuela's sacrifice fly plated the eventual game-winning score in SFA's 8-7 comeback victory over the Huskies at Jaycees Field on Tuesday night.

Once SFA had regained the lead for good, freshman Tyler Starks put the finishing touches on his second win of the season by tossing the eighth and surrendering one unearned run. From there, Austin Hagy took the mound in the ninth and dispatched the three HBU batters he faced in order – notching a pair of strikeouts in the process – to conjure up his first-ever save in an SFA uniform.

SFA was able to even its record at 11-11 in the non-conference skirmish thanks in large part to a dominant start by Eric Polivka. The senior southpaw put in five solid innings of work on the hill, struck out six and surrendered just one run to the Huskies.

Matching Polivka efforts on the hill was HBU starter Zach Carter who turned in a three-inning day on the bump in which he gave up just one Lumberjack run. Nick Ramos, Garrett McMullen, Conner Fikes, Zac Michener and Slayton Vaughan each finished with two hits each for SFA in the win.

Clark Kahawaii made it an early 1-0 lead for the home team by bringing Vaughan home on a two-out RBI single through the left side of the infield. Vaughan reached on the first of three SFA doubles of the night.

Polivka ran into his only rough patch in the top of the third when he issued two walks and a hit to load the bases. Fortunately, the damage was minimized to just one run when the lefty got Brandon Brintz to ground into a double play before sitting down Austin Saenz on strikes.

Once Carter stepped off the mound, the 'Jacks were able to sustain a great deal of success against reliever Ivan Smith. After escaping a bases-loaded jam with a flyout in the fourth, Smith was not nearly as lucky in the fifth when he loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a Fikes single.

That set the table for Vaughan, who started the 'Jacks four-run frame with a two-run single through the infield. Matthew Dickey picked up an RBI after reaching on a bases-loaded fielders choice and Tyler Kendrick drew a bases-loaded walk that extended SFA's lead to 5-1.

Following a scoreless sixth courtesy of Austin Hearn taking over for Polivka, the Huskies drew four walks through their first five batters of the seventh to trim SFA's lead to 5-2. Those free passes continued to haunt the 'Jacks when Louie Payetta punched a two-run single through the infield.

HBU captured its first and only lead of the night when Saenz rifled a one-out double down the left field line to make it a 6-5 game.

After the 'Jacks three-run seventh, HBU countered with one score in the eighth before Starks snagged a rocket off the bat of Brandon Brintz to end the frame.

Payetta went 3-for-4 with three RBI for the Huskies and Austin Zillweger added two of HBU's nine hits in the loss.

On Thursday night in Natchitoches, La., the 'Jacks will begin their second Southland Conference road series of 2016 when they begin a three-game set at Northwestern State. First pitch in game one is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.