Indians rally for first victory

Thursday, February 26, 2004

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Wednesday's game at Tomlinson Stadium stands as a prime example of how quickly a baseball game can change.

Arkansas State spent seven innings building a lead Southeast Missouri State erased in one. Nine runs over the final two innings gave Southeast a 12-9 victory on a cold, windy afternoon.

"It was pretty much two games -- seven innings Arkansas State and then we had the last two innings," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said.

Southeast (1-3) scored six runs on five hits to forge a 9-9 tie in the eighth inning. Center fielder Eric Horstman scored the tying run with two outs when ASU closer Blake Ring threw a wild pitch on a 2-2 count.

Ring then gave up three runs on three hits in the ninth as Southeast completed a stunning comeback.

"It wasn't anything cheap. They hit our relievers," ASU coach Keith Kessinger said. "We had trouble throwing breaking balls for strikes and when you do that, even though our guys have decent velocity, you're going to get hit. It was a day to be able to score some runs and they did it."

ASU (3-5) carried a 9-3 lead into the eighth. Derek Cunningham, who recorded a strikeout to escape a two-out jam in the seventh, gave up four consecutive hits to start the inning.

Kessinger went to Matt Hicks, who hit a batter and gave up Horstman's two-run single that cut ASU's lead to 9-7. Ring came in and managed a strikeout, but Gary Gilbert's one-out sacrifice fly shaved the lead to one.

Ring (0-1) was one pitch from escaping the eighth with the lead when he bounced one past catcher Andy Runyan, bringing Horstman home to tie the game for the first time since the first inning.

Right fielder Aaron Fangman legged out a double to start Southeast's ninth inning. Ring misplayed a bunt, putting runners on first and third, and left fielder Bryan Kurt delivered an RBI single to put Southeast up 10-9.

Horstman's two-out, two-run single gave Southeast a three-run lead that was more than enough for closer Brad Smith. Smith (1-0) struck out three while pitching 2 1/3 hitless innings.

Hogan said Wednesday's game started in the pattern that Southeast experienced at Oklahoma, which swept a three-game series by a combined 28-8 score, but the Indians were able to rally when they were six outs from defeat.

"It's very hard to do, especially against great athletes like Arkansas State has got," Hogan said. "I'm not sure how we did it, but we earned it the hard way. It's a good win to start the year with for us, and we're glad to have it."

Southeast rang up 15 hits off five ASU pitchers. Horstman, Southeast's leadoff man, was 4-for-6 with four runs batted in to lead the visitors. Horstman, who also had a four-hit game at Oklahoma, is now a sizzling 10-for-19 (.526) through four games.

Kurt, a walkon making his first start, finished 3-for-5 with three RBI. Shortstop Ernie Bracamonte was 2-for-5, Fangman finished 2-for-4 and catcher Brady Noll belted a solo home run. Gilbert had two RBI.

Starting pitcher Karnie Vertz held Southeast to five hits and two runs over five innings, but ASU's relief pitchers yielded 10 hits in the last four innings.

"We didn't get anybody out today out of the bullpen," Kessinger said. "Honestly, by the time we bring Ring in, the momentum had shifted so much that it was a much more difficult job for him than it had been for the other guys."

ASU rocked Southeast starter Ryan Forsyth for six runs and six hits in two innings. Mike Fitch helped hold ASU at bay somewhat by allowing two runs and four hits in four innings.

ASU had 12 hits, but left 10 runners on base. The Indians left the bases loaded in the seventh, when they had what seemed like a comfortable 9-3 lead.

"I know that for Keith and his club, they've got to be disappointed, but they played well," Hogan said. "We just got hot at the end. We've struggled behind all year long, so I guess we were a little overdue. This was a big win for us."

Southeast visits Ole Miss for a two-game series next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: