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Friday Night in the Sun Belt

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Louisiana’s 5-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe Friday night was just one of five games played in the Sun Belt Conference as league play begins this weekend.  In the first weekend, geographical rivals team up for three game series.  Here’s what happened around the league Friday night.

SOUTH ALABAMA 7, TROY 2

In Mobile, South Alabama put an end to the longest winning streak in America by a pitcher.  Tyler Ray lost for the first time in 20 starts dating back to last year as USA defeated Troy 7-2 at Eddie Stanky Field.

Ray (2-1) went the distance for the Trojans, allowing 12 hits and seven runs.

Nick Zaharion led the South Alabama attack with three hits. while Brad Hook drove in three runs for the Jaguars (5-12, 1-0 SBC.)

Phillip Byrd (2-0) scattered nine hits over 7.2 innings to get the win.  Troy dropped to 8-8, 0-1 in the league with the loss.

FAU 5, FIU 1

Ryan Garton is the ace of the Florida Atlantic staff and he showed why in Miami Friday night as FAU opened league play with a 5-1 win over Florida International.

Garton (4-1) scattered four hits over seven innings, keeping the Panthers (8-8, 0-1) off the scoreboard.  R. J. Alvarez pitched the final two innings and allowed the only FIU run of the night, a ninth inning homer by Aramis Garcia for his fourth save of the season.

Corey Keller’s third home run of the season gave FAU (12-7, 1-0) a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning off losing pitcher Mason McVay (1-2).  The Owls added two runs in the sixth and two more in the ninth for the final margin.

Mitch Morales led FAU with three hits in the game, while Mike Albaladejo, Kyle Newton and Keller had two hits each.

Garcia had two of FIU’s five hits.

WESTERN KENTUCKY 9, MIDDLE TENNESSEE 2

In Murfreesboro, Ryan Hutchinson’s grand slam home run highlighted a six-run sixth inning as WKU beat Middle Tennessee 9-2 at Reese Smith, Jr. Field.

WKU (8-9. 1-0) had only nine hits in the game, but four of them went for extra bases.  Hutchinson, Ivan Hartle and Blake Crabtree had two hits each for the Hilltoppers as sophomore Justin Hagemann, last year’s Sun Belt Freshman of the Year, won for the first time all season.  Hagemann worked 6.1 innings before turning the ball over to Ross Hammonds, who allowed two hits the rest of the way.

The six run uprising came off losing pitcher Hunter Adkins (2-2) who had a complete game shutout earlier this season for Middle Tennessee (10-8, 0-1).

Second baseman Johnny Thomas had three hits for the Blue Raiders.

ARKANSAS STATE 7, UALR 3

Arkansas State starter Jacob Lee cooled off the hottest hitting team in the Sun Belt, allowing just five hits through 7.1 innings as the Red Wolves defeated Arkansas-Little Rock 7-3 at Tomlinson Stadium in Jonesboro.

Lee (3-0) struck out seven in the time he worked.  Brandon Farley and John Koch finished up for the Red Wolves.

Leadoff hitter Michael Faulkner had four hits to pace Arkansas State’s (9-8, 1-0) 15-hit attack.  Ryan Emery’s two run homer highlighted a three run first inning for the Red Wolves.  Eight of the nine starters for ASU had at least one hit.

UALR (13-6, 0-1) didn’t help its cause defensively.  They committed four errors in the game, accounting for two unearned runs.  Trojans’ starter Chance Cleveland (4-1) lasted just 4.1 innings, allowing ten hits.  UALR, which led the league in hitting by a wide margin coming into the game, managed only seven hits.

(Information from Sun Belt schools’ stories and box scores contributed to his story.)

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