Big First Innings Propel Wonder Boys to Sweep

A fast start in both games paved the way for Arkansas Tech to sweep a Gulf South Conference baseball doubleheader from the Ouachita Baptist Tigers at Tech Field in Russellville on Saturday afternoon.

The Wonder Boys (28-14 overall, 9-4 GSC) scored seven runs in the first inning of game one and went on to a 10-5 victory. Tech posted a four-spot in the first inning of game two on their way to an 11-7 win.

Arkansas Tech is now three games in front of OBU in the race for third place in the GSC West Division, and Tech is just one game behind Delta State for second place with seven regular season conference games remaining.

The Wonder Boys will try to complete a three-game series sweep of the Tigers (21-18, 6-7) at 2 p.m. Sunday. Admission will be free.

Radio station KCAB 980 AM and will have live play-by-play coverage from Tech Field.

A Ouachita error and RBIs by Nick Makris and Joe Walton had already given Tech a 3-0 lead in the first inning of game one when Anthony Gower came to the plate. The bases were loaded with no outs.

Gower delivered a lined shot to left-center field that cleared the bases and resulted in Gower’s first triple of the season. Tech led 6-0, and Chad Wynn added an RBI single later in the inning to make it 7-0.

Brock Green went 3-for-3 with a home run and two doubles to help Ouachita chip away at the Wonder Boys’ lead. Green’s RBI double in the top of the seventh got the Tigers to within 8-5.

Tech responded by putting its first three hitters on base in the bottom of the seventh. Colt Loehrs delivered a pinch-hit sacrifice fly to bring Walton home and make it 9-5. Matt Johnson added an RBI single later in the inning to increase the Wonder Boys’ lead to 10-5.

Starting pitcher Josh Floriani took it from there. The right-handed senior from Malvern retired the final seven Tigers he saw for a complete-game victory that improved his 2010 record to 9-1. He struck out nine.

Floriani’s nine wins are tied for fourth-most by a Tech pitcher in a single season. Kevin Crafton (12 wins in 1995) holds the record.

Johnson was 3-for-5 in game one. It was his ninth game this year with three or more hits. Walton, Wynn and Stroud added two hits apiece.

Game two started in a fashion similar to game one. Johnson delivered a triple and scored on a passed ball to give Tech an early 1-0 lead. The triple was Johnson’s sixth of the season, tying the single-season school record set by Greg Hartwick in 1998.

The Wonder Boys really got rolling after two were out in the first. Walton had an RBI single, Landon Sullins stole home and Walton came home on an error to give Tech a 4-0 lead.

All was quiet until the top of the third, when Green hit a two-run home run and Will Gowdy followed with a solo shot to cut the Wonder Boys’ advantage to 4-3.

Tech answered in kind in the bottom of the third. Johnson led off the inning with a home run and Sullins blasted a two-run homer to rebuild Tech’s edge to 7-3.

Ouachita was undeterred. Cass Via drove in a run with a single, and Duncan Collins sent two of his teammates home with a single in the top of the fourth inning. The Tigers’ second consecutive three-run inning chased Tech starting pitcher Caleb Powers from the game and made it 7-6.

Gino Spratley came on in relief for Arkansas Tech and restored order. He wiggled out of jams in the fourth and fifth innings. Spratley stranded two inherited runners in the fourth, while a pick-off play and a double play in the fifth helped squash a Ouachita rally.

Meanwhile, the Wonder Boys increased their lead to 11-6 thanks to a RBI triple by Makris in the fourth and RBIs by Chris Reese, Tyler Taunton and Wynn in the fifth.

Steve Mirizzi led off the top of the sixth with a double for Ouachita Baptist, and he scored later in the inning on a sacrifice fly by Green.

But that proved to be the Tigers’ last stand. Addison Rayford came on to get the final six outs for the Wonder Boys and earn his third save of the season.

Spratley (1-1) pitched one and two-thirds innings of relief to earn the game two win.

Sullins was 3-for-4 in the nightcap. Johnson was 2-for-4. Seven different Wonder Boys contributed to their 10-hit attack.