NACOGDOCHES, Texas - One of the most utilized phrases about the game of baseball makes reference to the likelihood of seeing something unique in a game, no matter how many of them an individual has seen.
On Tuesday night at Jaycees Field, that saying rang true for the Stephen F. Austin baseball team. At the end of the evening, though, a few extra lights didn’t spoil the start of the ‘Jacks’ longest home stand of the season.
Senior Zac Michener broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth with his nation-leading sixth sacrifice fly to make a winner of fellow final-year man Erik Nouis who racked up a career-high nine strikeouts through five frames in the ‘Jacks’ 6-2 victory over Louisiana Tech Tuesday night at Jaycees Field.
No player finished with more hits than senior Nick Ramos who went 3-for-5 with an RBI in a win that snapped the ‘Jacks’ three-game losing skid. Junior Josh Evans did considerable damage from the designated hitter spot, going 2-for-4 with a home run and a pair of RBI. Each of his run-scoring hits tied the game after the Bulldogs took a pair of leads in the first and fourth frames.
With the ‘Jacks up 4-2 headed to the top of the sixth inning, the home plate umpire caused the game to be delayed some 28 minutes because of a reason not often encountered in the collegiate baseball realm.
The location of Jaycees Field puts SFA’s home facility in close proximity to various other recreational ballparks in the Nacogdoches baseball complex. The lights on one of those fields was alleged to be disrupting the view of the umpire, causing a nearly half-hour delay until the game on the neighboring field could finish so the lights could be turned off.
“What a wild one,” remarked SFA head coach Johnny Cardenas following the game’s conclusion. “Jaycees Field has been our home for years and this is the first time those neighboring lights have caused a problem. I’m proud of our guys, though, for staying loose through that delay and coming back to get a big win against a very good Louisiana Tech squad.”
Nouis’ strong outing did not start off as smoothly as he would have liked after the senior gave up three of the Bulldogs’ eight hits through the first four batters he faced. The second base knock in that series - a single off the bat of Brent Diaz - pushed Louisiana Tech’s first run of the game across home plate.
After loading the bases with a five-pitch walk, Nouis calmed down and got out of the frame without any further damage with a shallow flyout and a groundout.
"Erik is one of our better arms, but he has had a few bumps in the road this season," Cardenas said. "He made some adjustments after the first inning and really started working down in the zone a little more. Jarrod Huber called a great game behind the plate and we saw what Erik is able to do when he's in the zone and able to duplicate pitches."
Louisiana Tech starter Cameron Linck had sat down the first four SFA batters he faced, but that mattered not to Evans who turned on a 3-1 fastball from the senior in the home half of the second and deposited his team-leading third home run of the season beyond the fence in right field.
Nouis’ second - and last - walk of his outing came in the fourth and eventually turned into the run that broke the 1-1 deadlock. Leadoff man Jordan Washam stepped to the dish with two outs in the frame and delivered an RBI double to right. Michener, however, alertly started a rundown play while Washam was on his way to third. Caught in the rundown, Washem was tagged for the frame’s final out midway between second and third base.
The Bulldogs’ final lead of the game lasted only minutes, however, as Michener cranked Linck’s first pitch of the home fourth to straightaway center for a leadoff triple. Following the senior’s first career triple, Evans rapped an RBI single to make matters 2-2.
A leadoff walk from Stevie Thompson in the SFA fifth turned into the eventual game-winning run. Tyler Kendrick laid down a bunt single and Ramos followed with a single to load the bases. Right after Michener’s sacrifice fly gave the ‘Jacks the lead for good, the home team went to work on increasing it.
Ramos made a break for second and appeared to be caught in a rundown, but Kendrick took off for home and scored his only run of the game to give SFA a 4-2 lead once the fifth inning was in the books.
After the delay, SFA received a pair of strikeouts from sophomore relief arm Seth Campbell in the top of the sixth before tacking on its final pair of runs in the bottom of the frame. Jarrod Huber started the ‘Jacks’ offense with a two-out single before Stevie Thompson drew his second walk of the game. Kendrick reached on the Bulldogs’ second error which also scored Huber and Ramos’ RBI single plated Thompson and accounted for the final 6-2 margin.
Seth Campbell saw his night on the hill come to a premature end in the seventh after the sophomore loaded the bases with a walk, a hit by pitch and an infield single with one out. The ‘Jacks then turned to Cole Ridgely who worked his way out of the pickle by getting a flyout following a great defensive pick by Eric DeJesus at third to end the Bulldogs’ threat.
Tyler Starks loaded the bases with one out in the Louisiana Tech ninth before getting Marshall Boggs to bounce into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Washam, DIaz and Chase Lunceford each had a pair of hits for Louisiana Tech who has lost four straight games for the first time since the 2015 season.
The ‘Jacks longest home stand of the season continues with another non-conference tilt Wednesday afternoon. At 3:30 p.m., SFA will do battle with Arkansas-Pine Bluff.