NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release)- For six innings, the Stephen F. Austin baseball team stood toe-to-toe with Little Rock, but the Trojans used a two-out, three-run double by Hunter Owens in the seventh to take the lead for good, ending the ‘Jacks four-game winning streak by a 7-2 score at Jaycees Field on Tuesday night.
Getting his second-straight Tuesday start, senior Eric Polivka employed some of his best stuff when faced with a number of jams to strand seven Trojans on the base paths. Through five innings, Polivka punched out six and scattered five hits to go along with three walks.
Upon exiting the tilt, Polivka owned a 2-1 lead, thanks largely to Conner Fikes who busted out of a 3-for-17 slump over the last four game by playing a major role in both of the ‘Jacks runs. Zach Baker gave the visitors and early 1-0 lead when his leadoff double in the second started things off. After stealing third, he came home on a wild offering by Polivka with two outs.
Punching a one-out single to right field, Fikes withstood several pickoff moves by Little Rock starter Joe Corbett before one of them slipped under the glove of the Trojans’ first baseman. That errant throw sent Fikes to third and another error – this time by Nik Gifford at first – in an attempt to get the junior out at third instead allowed Fikes to race home and tie things up.
Although they weren’t getting great deal of hits off of Corbett, SFA took their only lead of the game in the fourth. Following the first SFA out of the frame, Kyle Thornell was hit by a pitch before Garrett McMullen drew a four-pitch walk. Executing the hit-and-run to perfection, Fikes hammered a single to left-center, allowing Thornell to race home from second to make matters 2-1.
Sophomore Cody Adams took the pitching reins for Polivka in the sixth, but a leadoff single by Owens resulted in the eventual tying run. Little Rock’s center fielder advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a wild pitch from Adams before touching home plate on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Keegan Meyn.
Adams finished up his relief outing by getting the first out in the seventh, giving way to Cole Ridgely who was greeted with a hit before recording the frame’s second out. With that, though, Ridgely issued eight-straight balls to the next two Little Rock hitters, loading the bases for Owens who turned on the first pitch he got and drilled it to the deepest part of center field.
The Trojans tacked on one more run in the eighth and ninth frames and Dylan Slayton sewed up the win on the hill for Little Rock by tossing four effective innings of relief in which he gave up just four hits and benefitted from two of the three double plays SFA grounded in to.
Fikes’ 2-for-3 effort was the ‘Jacks’ only multi-hit performance of the night. Nick Ramos andZach Valenzuela each notched a hit for SFA as did McMullen and Thornell.
With their final non-conference home game of 2016 in the books, the ‘Jacks will get two days off before McNeese State make the trek to Jaycees Field for a three-game Southland Conference series. Winners of five of their last six SLC bouts, the ‘Jacks take the field against the Cowboys at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night for the series opener.