South Alabama eliminates Arkansas State

Published 3:14 pm Saturday, May 23, 2015

BY: Sunbelt Media Relations

No. 1 seed South Alabama used a dominating pitching performance from junior Austin Bembnowski and some timely hitting to eliminate No. 8 seed Arkansas State, 7-3, and advance to the 2015 Sun Belt Baseball Championship Game.

South Alabama will play the victor of Saturday’s second semifinal between No. 6 seed Texas State and No. 3 seed UL Lafayette. UL Lafayette would need to beat Texas State twice to advance to the championship game while Texas State just needs to win one game. The championship game will be broadcast on ESPN3 at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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The Jaguars jumped ahead in the first inning as sophomore Cole Billings walked to leadoff game. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and stole third before scoring on a sacrifice fly to left center by senior Bud Collura.

The Jaguars loaded the bases in the fourth inning as senior Adam Ballew and sophomore Matt Bolger worked walks around a pop up and junior Daniel Martinez’s single. Arkansas State (27-30) almost got out of the jam by inducing a grounder out of freshman Jared Barnes. The Red Wolves recorded the out at second base, but the throw to first was offline and allowed Ballew to score.

South Alabama (37-19) added another run in the fifth inning as junior Benn Gann smoked a one out double into the wind and off the wall in centerfield. Gann moved to third on a groundout and scored on an infield single to first base by Ballew.

The Jaguars put multiple runs on the board in the seventh as the rally started with back-to-back, two out doubles off the right centerfield wall. Ballew hit the first one and then came home to score as Martinez followed with a ball in almost the exact same place. After a walk to senior Cole Gleason, Bolger doubled into left center, which scored Martinez. Gleason came home and Martinez went to third as Arkansas State committed two errors. Barnes beat out a dribbler to third base to score Bolger and increase the Jaguar lead to 7-0.

Bembnowski (3-3) only allowed two hits through six innings before running into trouble in the seventh. Arkansas State junior Tanner Ring singled to right to leadoff the frame. After an out, senior Collin Masssanelli singled through the right side. A fly out put runners on the corners before Ring scored the lone Red Wolf run on a wild pitch.

“I thought the story of the game was the performance of our starting pitcher,” said Jaguar head coach Mark Calvi. “As you keep going down the line you need to keep your pitching staff fresh. He came out and gave us a great effort. I thought it was as good of an effort he has given all year long.”

Bembnowski pitched 8.1 innings and only surrendered six hits and three runs while striking out seven. He departed with the score 7-1 after allowing a one out walk to senior Stuart Levy and a single to junior pinch hitter Matt Burgess. Junior Cody Van Aken replaced Bembnowski and recorded the final two outs, but not before senior Zach George hit a double off the right field wall to score two.

Junior Adam Grantham (0-3) started the game for Arkansas State but only pitched 1.1 innings. He gave up one hit; one run and two walks before getting the quick hook. Junior Cody Jackson relieved and pitched 3.2 innings. Jackson gave up three hits, three walks and two hits. Sophomore Coulton Lee got one out before sophomore Tyler Zuber entered. Zuber pitched 1.1 innings, surrendered four hits and gave up four runs. Freshman Bo Ritter pitched the final 2.1 innings without allowing a hit or a walk.

Ballew finished the game 3-for-4 with two runs and one RBI. Martinez collected two hits while Barnes went 1-for-2 with two RBIs.

George finished the tournament with a 2-for-4 performance with two RBIs. Massanelli recorded two hits while Ring went 1-for-2 with a run.