Recording your first pitching victory at the NCAA level makes for a pretty good day. Coming through with the game-winning hit that puts your team in the postseason is even better. Doing both of those things at the same time is a memory for a lifetime.
Arkansas Tech junior Nate Wilder experienced that scenario on Friday in an 8-7 Wonder Boys' victory over the Henderson State Reddies in game one of a three-game series at Tech Field in Russellville.
With the win, Arkansas Tech (26-16 overall, 12-5 Gulf South Conference) clinched a berth in the GSC Baseball Tournament for a second consecutive year. The event will be played May 6-10 at USA Stadium in Millington, Tenn.
The score was tied 7-7 in the top of the ninth inning when Wilder (photographed), who had started the game at designated hitter, was called from the bullpen. He inherited a runner at first base and no one out.
Wilder retired the first two batters he faced, gave up a single to Charlie Hillman and then struck out Bobby Tatum to strand the go-ahead run at third base.
Landon Sullins started the bottom of the ninth for Arkansas Tech with a single. Colt Loehrs flew out to right field, and Josh Riley followed by hitting a ground ball to third base.
HSU third baseman Jose Mendoza fielded that ground ball and made a wild throw to second base. His error allowed Sullins to advance to third base with the winning run.
Wilder (1-0) made himself the winning pitcher and put Arkansas Tech into the postseason by lifting a walk-off RBI single down the right field line. Sullins trotted home and the Wonder Boys improved to 11-3 against Henderson State since 2007.
Wilder's big ninth inning was made possible by a two-out, two-run triple by Madison Beaird in the bottom of the eighth. His drive to right-center field brought Chris Reese and Matt Johnson home to tie the score at 7-7.
Johnson was 3-for-4 with three runs scored in Friday's first game. Beaird and Nick Makris added two hits apiece.
HSU reliever Josh Wesson (0-1) was the losing pitcher.
Tech relief pitcher Tyler Dowse received no decision, but his work on the mound was critical in the Wonder Boys' win. He allowed three runs on six hits over five innings. Dowse struck out a season-high eight batters.
Henderson State bounced back to defeat the Wonder Boys 15-3 in the nightcap.
Arkansas Tech pitchers issued 12 walks and were touched for 13 base hits in the loss.
Kendal Norman went 4-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs for Henderson State (18-22-1, 6-10-1).
Tyler O'Bryant (4-2) started on the mound for the Reddies and pitched six innings for the win. He allowed three runs on four hits.
Tech starting pitcher Danny Parker (7-3) surrendered eight runs, five of which were earned, on six hits in two innings. He suffered his first loss in his last five decisions.
The only positive for the Wonder Boys in game two was that Matt Johnson extended his hitting streak to 25 consecutive games with a seventh-inning single.
Arkansas Tech and Henderson State will stage the rubber match of their three-game series at noon on Saturday, April 23, at Tech Field. No admission will be charged.
Radio station KCAB 980 AM will broadcast Saturday's game.
Click here to access an Internet stream of the broadcast.
Click here to learn more about Arkansas Tech baseball.]]>