Wonder Boys Lose, Clinch No. 2 Seed Anyway

Harding head coach Dr. Patrick McGaha pushed the right button at the right time on Saturday afternoon, and it opened the door to a 13-3 Bisons’ victory over the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys in Gulf South Conference baseball at Jerry Moore Field in Searcy.

Harding (24-23 overall, 8-10 GSC) led 7-3 after six innings, but Tech loaded the bases with just one out against HU starting pitcher Kyle Cline to begin the seventh inning.

That was when McGaha went to his bullpen and called for Tyler Billen. The 6-foot-5 left-hander came on to retire the No. 3 and No. 4 hitters in the Wonder Boys’ order — Nick Makris and Clint Stroud.

Tech (33-15, 13-5) stranded three runners on base and Harding preserved its 7-3 lead.

The Bisons carried the momentum of Billen’s relief work over to the bottom of the seventh inning. Aided by three walks, a hit batsman and an error, Harding scored six runs in the last of the seventh to end the game early on the 10-run lead after seven innings mercy rule.

Cline (4-6) held Tech to three runs, two earned, on eight hits over six and one-third innings. Billen earned his first career save.

Tech starting pitcher Josh Floriani (10-2) was saddled with his first loss since April 2. Floriani allowed seven runs, six of which were earned, on seven hits in five and one-third innings.

Makris (photographed) and Stroud were both 2-for-4 for the Wonder Boys.

Every member of the Harding batting order reached base at least twice. Charles Bradley’s two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning put the Bisons in front for good.

The loss snapped the Wonder Boys’ eight-game winning streak, but Saturday was not a complete loss for Arkansas Tech.

Despite their defeat in Searcy, the Wonder Boys still clinched the No. 2 seed from the GSC West Division in the GSC Tournament on Saturday. Tech secured the No. 2 seed when Southern Arkansas defeated Delta State 9-6 in game two of a doubleheader at Ferriss Field in Cleveland, Miss., on Saturday night.

Arkansas Tech is now locked into the 9:30 a.m. game in the first round of the GSC Tournament on Saturday, May 1, at USA Stadium in Millington, Tenn. The Wonder Boys will face the No. 3 seed from the GSC East Division.

And while Arkansas Tech received the help it needed from elsewhere in the confererence, Harding did not. Henderson State beat Arkansas-Monticello 5-3 to clinch the No. 4 seed from the GSC West in the GSC Tournament. The Bisons are now eliminated from contention for a spot in the postseason.

Arkansas Tech and Harding will play a doubleheader beginning at noon Sunday.

Radio station KWKK 100.9 FM will have live play-by-play of game one. Game two of the twin bill, which will begin at approximately 3 p.m., will shift to radio station KCAB 980 AM.

Both broadcasts will be streamed over the Internet at www.athletics.atu.edu.

The broadcasts will also include live updates from Arkansas Tech’s softball doubleheader against Arkansas-Monticello, which is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Chartwells Women’s Sports Complex in Russellville.