Two swings of the bat provided Arkansas Tech freshman starting pitcher Danny Parker with everything he needed on Saturday evening.
Colt Loehrs and Josh Riley hit back-to-back home runs to start the top of the second inning and Parker tossed a complete game to lead the Wonder Boys to a 2-1 win over the Delta State Statesmen in game two of a Gulf South Conference doubleheader at Ferriss Field in Cleveland, Miss.
With the win, Arkansas Tech earned a split of Saturday's doubleheader and pulled even with nationally 16th-ranked Harding atop the GSC West Division standings.
The Wonder Boys (25-14 overall, 11-3 GSC) and the Statesmen (25-15, 10-4) will play the rubber game of their series at 2 p.m. Sunday. The game will be broadcast in the Arkansas River Valley on KCAB 980 AM.
Click here to access an Internet stream of the broadcast (pay no attention to the game time listed on the streaming page; it really will start at 2 p.m. Sunday).
Loehrs hit his home run down the left field line to put Tech in front 1-0. Riley sent the next pitch from Delta State starting pitcher Aaron Newcomb (5-6) over the right field fence to make it 2-0.
Delta State's only run in the nightcap came on an RBI single by Craig Hermann in the bottom of the fourth inning. Michael Vinson came home to score on the play, but DSU's Patrick Strack was cut down at third base trying to advance.
Loehrs' throw from right field after Hermann's hit sailed over the mitt of Tech catcher Danny Higginbotham while Vinson slid across home plate. Fortunately for the Wonder Boys, Parker was where he was supposed to be --- backing up home plate. He gathered the throw and threw to third base, where Nick Makris applied the tag on Strack to end the inning.
It was not the last time that a defensive play figured prominently in Tech's win. Higginbotham threw out two would-be base stealers in the final three innings. One of those runners carried the tying run; on other occasion Higginbotham removed the runner carrying the go-ahead run by catching him stealing.
Parker (7-2) pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning to wrap it up. He allowed just four hits and one unearned run. Parker notched four strikeouts and worked around five walks.
Matt Johnson (photographed) extended his hitting streak to a career-best 22 consecutive games with an infield single in the fifth inning.
Delta State took advantage of Arkansas Tech mistakes to post a 12-3 win over the Wonder Boys in the opener.
Arkansas Tech got a two-run single from Madison Beaird in the top of the third inning to take a 2-0 lead, but that advantage was short-lived.
Vinson put Delta State on the board with an RBI single in the bottom of the third. That two-out rally started with a walk. It was not a harbinger of good things to come for Arkansas Tech.
The Statesmen scored three runs in the fourth inning and five more in the fifth inning to take a 9-3 lead.
Delta State's fourth-inning outburst started with a walk and an Arkansas Tech error. A hit batsman later in the frame added to the Wonder Boys' troubles.
The Statesmen's fifth-inning rally started with a walk and a hit batsman.
Niemann took advantage of those gifts by hitting a one-out grand slam off the scoreboard in right field to make it 9-3.
That was more than enough run support for DSU starting pitcher Josh Branstetter (6-1), who tossed his third complete game of the season.
Branstetter scattered seven hits over nine innings, and only one of those was for extra bases. Arkansas Tech came into the game ranked in the top eight in NCAA Division II in home runs, triples, doubles and slugging percentage.
Only one of the three runs allowed by Branstetter was earned as he lowered his earned run average to 1.95 in 50 and two-thirds innings this season.
Cody Hatman (2-1) took the loss in game one. He allowed four runs on five hits in four and one-third innings. He walked four. Tyler Dowse pitched the final three and two-third innings for Tech. He surrendered seven runs on seven hits.]]>