Louisiana-Monroe Wins Sun Belt Baseball Title, 4-2
The last two seasons, Louisiana-Monroe failed to qualify for the Sun Belt Conference tournament. Sunday, their team celebrated a championship with a dogpile.
ULM scored three times in the top of the eighth inning and took advantage of three crucial Arkansas State mental mistakes to defeat the Red Wolves 4-2 to win the Sun Belt Conference baseball tournament in Bowling Green, KY.
Trailing 2-1 going into the eighth, ULM (31-28) tied the game on back to back doubles by Joey Rapp and Brandon Alexander off losing pitcher Brandon Farley. Judd Edwards then tried to bunt Alexander to third, but Farley fielded his bunt and threw to third baseman Alex Potts to get Alexander trapped between second and third. But Potts never made a throw, allowing Alexander to get back to second base. Taylor Abdalla then sacrificed the runners to second and third, and, after Corben Green was walked intentionally, Justin Stawychny's single scored Alexander with the winning run. Les Aulds was hit by a pitch to give ULM the final margin.
Starting pitchers Jacob Lee for Arkansas State and Randy Zeigler for ULM were both superb in their outings. Lee, the Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year, allowed just a leadoff homer to Aulds in the first inning in his six innings of work. Lee allowed five hits, walked three and struck out seven. Zeigler allowed a solo homer to Potts in the second inning, but was chaged with the go ahead run in the seventh when Dustin Jones led off the inning with a single. Zach Maggio bunted Jones to second and ULM coach Jeff Schexnaider replaced Zeigler with left hander Kendall Thamm. Thamm's wild pitch allowed Jones to move to third base, where he scored on Zach George's sacrifice fly to give the Red Wolves (34-23) a 2-1 lead. Zeigler was charged with seven hits, two runs, one walk and nine strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work.
Arkansas State could have had more runs had it not been for two baserunning mistakes. In the sixth inning, Potts singled with two out but Claude Johnson, running at second, stopped at third base after apparently misreading a sign from his third base coach. Then in the eighth, Kaleb Brown led off with a base hit. Pinch hitter Ryan Emery, batting against reliever Wil Browning, sliced a ball down the left field line that hit the base of the wall. But Brown misread it and only got as far as second base. He would have scored on the next play as pinch hitter Ryan Roberts hit a ball off the glove of first baseman Joey Rapp, but instead just moved the runners to second and third.
Browning (9-3) gave up a leadoff walk to Michael Faulkner in the ninth, but got the next three Red Wolves in order to end it.
ULM will now await the selection show tomorrow to find out where they'll be headed for the NCAA tournament.