Before Saturday’s doubleheader against Grambling State, one of the things written on the board of the Arkansas-Pine Bluff dugout was “Be the Man.”
“That is one thing we pride ourselves on, especially as a reliever,” junior Kevin Walsh said. “Mikey Ramirez gave us a good start and I wanted to make sure I was the man for him and finish.”
Walsh picked up his seventh save of the season thanks to a perfect ninth inning – including two strikeouts – as UAPB defeated Grambling State 5-2 in Game 2 of the doubleheader to take the three-game series. Grambling State won 6-1 earlier Saturday.
“I was pleased with the guys out of the bullpen,” head coach Carlos James said. “They came in today and did their job.
“Like they did Friday, they did the same thing. Our pitching is beginning to find it.”
Senior Ramirez picked up his fourth win of the season after giving up just two runs (one earned) on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He also struck out two and walked two.
“We have six or seven guys who really credited themselves to what they do,” Walsh said of the team’s bullpen. “Our pitching coach Eric Vazquez has done a great job with us and we believe in it.
“We believe in our starters to give us quality starts and they have to believe in us to finish it.”
Senior Redmond Floyd pitched a flawless 1 1/3 innings in the second game.
“Anytime down the stretch, what you want to do is just win the series,” James said. “It is hard to sweep somebody twice. It is hard to sweep somebody period.
“We took the series five out of six for the year,” James said. “Which is great. I’m proud of our kids.”
UAPB (16-23, 14-6 SWAC) remains in first place in the West Division. Texas Southern (18-23, 11-5) – which is currently 2 1/2 games behind UAPB for second – split Saturday’s doubleheader with Southern University.
“Texas Southern has been right up there with us the entire season,” UAPB senior Tyler Oertle said. “Every SWAC win that we can get is definitely a big win.”
Oertle accounted for three of UAPB’s five runs in Game 2 thanks to a two-run single in the bottom of the fourth inning. It gave the Golden Lions a 5-0 lead.
“He came with that curveball in my last at-bat and my first at-bat, so I was basically just sitting on that pitch,” Oertle said. “With one strike, I got my pitch and I hit it.”
Oertle finished the day 1 for 3 with a run scored and two RBIs.
“It was a huge win, a huge series win,” Oertle said.
UAPB scored three runs in the bottom of the third inning. Mitch Bruckshaw led off with a single and a stolen base. Oertle was hit-by-a-pitch and Rashawn Tillman singled to load the bases.
An errant throw by Grambling’s right fielder allowed Bruckshaw score from third. A balk by the pitcher allowed Oertle to score and Tillman was plated by Isias Alcantar ground out.
“That is the thing about this team,” James said. “They don’t care who makes the big play. Just as long as we win.
“With (Oertle and Bruckshaw), coming through today, that is about par for our team. Sometimes the big guys don’t always have to do it.”
Bruckshaw finished 1 for 3 with two runs scored.
Grambling (12-26, 9-12) scored both of its runs in the top of the seventh inning thanks to three straight singles to lead off the inning.
T.J. Murphy pitched six innings in the loss for Grambling. He gave up five runs (none earned) on five hits with three walks and one strikeout.
UAPB is scheduled to play Arkansas-Little Rock on Tuesday and will host Pittsburgh for a three-game series next weekend. The Golden Lions will conclude their regular season with a three-game series with Texas Southern in Houston.
“I expect nothing but a battle,” Oertle said of TSU. “It is going to be a great series. We got to take care of business this week first, but once this week is over, it is all business with Texas Southern.”
In Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader, UAPB committed four errors and Grambling scored five of its six runs in the second inning. The Lions tallied 11 hits but left 12 runners on base. Their only run was in the bottom of the ninth.
Kyle Schwartz pitched into the ninth inning for UAPB. He gave up six runs (one earned) on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
Colby Martin is credited with the win after pitching 8 2/3 innings as well. He gave up one run (earned) on 11 hits with two walks and no strikeouts.
Bruckshaw, Kirby Campbell and Jose Hernandez had two hits each for UAPB.