Wonder Boys Stay Alive in GSC Tournament

Nationally 29th-ranked Arkansas Tech established a new school record for baseball wins in a season and picked up its first victory in the Gulf South Conference Baseball Tournament since 2001 by defeating the Henderson State Reddies 12-7 at Ferriss Field in Cleveland, Miss., on Tuesday.

Tech’s win in the losers’ bracket game keeps it alive in the GSC Tournament. The Wonder Boys advance to play at 1 p.m. Wednesday against Southern Arkansas.

The Muleriders dropped an 8-4 decision to Valdosta State on Tuesday night in a game that did not end until 1:20 a.m.

Radio station KVLD 99.3 FM will broadcast the 1 p.m. Wednesday game in the Arkansas River Valley. The broadcast will be streamed over the Internet at www.athletics.atu.edu.

Arkansas Tech (35-18) put the lead-off man on base in six of the nine innings on Tuesday, and on four of those occasions that lead-off man came around to score.

Chad Wynn started the trend. He was hit by a pitch to begin the game and later scored on an RBI ground ball from Clint Stroud.

Matt Johnson made it 2-0 in the first inning when he broke from third and scored while Joe Walton was caught in a run-down between first and second.

Anthony Gower extended the Wonder Boys’ advantage to 3-0 by drawing a bases-loaded walk in the third inning, and Nick Makris increased the edge to 5-0 with a two-RBI double in the fourth. Makris stole home as part of a double steal later in the inning to make it 6-0.

Henderson State (31-18) got on the board with Gip Hendrix’s RBI ground out in the fourth inning.

The Reddies pulled to within 6-2 on an RBI single by Adam Ussery in the fifth, but the damage in that inning could have been much worse for Arkansas Tech.

Henderson State had runners at second and third with two outs when Grant Dennis hit a bounding ball over second base. Wonder Boy shortstop Chris Reese made a reaching stab to stop it, wheeled and tossed a one-hop throw to first. Gower dug it out to get the third out and strand two Reddies in scoring position.

Tech rode the momentum of that play to score two runs in the top of the sixth. Stroud had an RBI ground out and Johnson executed a straight steal of home to give the Wonder Boys an 8-2 lead.

Henderson State, which was making its first GSC Baseball Tournament appearance ever, was not ready to quietly board the bus and head home to Arkadelphia.

The Reddies cut Tech’s edge in half by scoring three runs in the bottom of the sixth. The Wonder Boys committed two errors in the inning and the first three HSU batters in the frame all scored to make it 8-5.

The score remained the same until the top of the ninth, when Josh Riley, Johnson and Makris all recorded RBIs and a fourth Tech run scored on an error to give the Wonder Boys a 12-5 cushion. Makris drove in his run with his sixth triple of the year, tying Greg Hartwick (1998) and Johnson (2010) for the school record for triples in a season.

Those extra runs came in handy in the bottom of the ninth. Charlie Hillman hit a solo home run and Robert Gilbert had an RBI double to trim the Reddies’ deficit to 12-7, but that was as close as Henderson State could get.

Tech relief pitcher Addison Rayford induced a ground out to shortstop by Hendrix to end the game.

Caleb Powers (7-2) started and pitched the first six and two-thirds innings to earn the win. He allowed five runs, four of which were earned, on 10 hits. Powers struck out two and walked one. Rayford got the final seven outs for his fourth save of the season.

Henderson State’s Chase Cleveland (4-3) took the loss. He gave up six runs, four earned, on five hits in three and two-thirds innings.

Johnson was 4-for-6 with four runs scored and one driven in for the Wonder Boys. Makris and Reese had two hits apiece. Wynn was 1-for-3 with three runs scored.

In addition to his two RBIs, Stroud also notched his 23rd double of the season to establish a new single-season school record. The previous record of 22 doubles was set by John Paul Davis during his All-America season in 2001.

Tech’s 35th win of the season broke the school baseball victories record set by the 1994 Wonder Boys, who finished 34-14-1.

The victory snapped a nine-game losing streak for the Wonder Boys at the GSC Tournament. Tech lost its final two games in the 2001 GSC Tournament and it was swept out of the event in 2004, 2005 and 2007. The Wonder Boys dropped an 8-3 decision to North Alabama in their first-round game at the 2010 GSC Tournament on Monday.