Arkansas-Pine Bluff scored a go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth to cap off a late-inning rally and defeat Grambling State 3-2 Friday afternoon at the Torii Hunter Baseball Complex.
It is the third time in four games in which UAPB has rallied for a comeback win.
“We have proved that a lot this year,” junior Joshua Cassidy said. “Coming back from big deficits and winning against Southern and now against Grambling.
“We are never out of any game.”
The series concludes with a doubleheader beginning at noon today.
“It is best to get that first one,” UAPB coach Carlos James said. “Instead of trying to get two on a doubleheader day.
“Those SWAC doubleheader days are long, but it is great to get the first win. Looking forward to coming out tomorrow and tackling Game 1.”
After UAPB (15-22, 13-5 SWAC) fell behind 2-0 after two innings, Cassidy hit a game-tying double in the bottom of the sixth.
“I was really just looking for a fastball, just middle in,” the Magnolia native said. “Something I could pull down the line and get a double.
“Hit it anywhere in the outfield really.”
UAPB scored 13 runs over the final three innings to defeat Southern last Saturday and scored six in the bottom of the sixth inning to defeat Jarvis Christian (Texas) in the second game of a doubleheader on Tuesday.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth of Friday’s game, Isias Alcantar and Rashawn Tillman hit back-to-back singles. They scored on Cassidy’s double down the left field line.
“This team doesn’t give up,” James said. “They have taught me patience.
“… I just sit there and just cheer them on and they come through.”
Cassidy finished the game 1 for 3 with the two RBIs and a walk.
“(Cassidy) needed a hit at that particular time and he came through,” James said. “That’s what this team has been all about.
“It is exciting to see what we are going to do down the stretch.”
UAPB broke the tie in the bottom of the eighth. After loading the bases with just one out, pinch hitter Kirby Campbell beat out the throw to first to break up a potential double play. Campbell’s hustle allowed Andre Davis to score the go-ahead run on the play.
“This a championship-like win,” James said. “A lot of things weren’t clicking early, but they stayed the course and we got our runs.
“It was a great win for us.”
Jim Ploeger pitched 7 2/3 innings in the no-decision. He allowed two runs (both earned) on four hits with five strikeout and no walks.
“He did a great job (Friday),” James said. “… That’s all you can ask for out of your starter.
“Especially this late into the season.”
Kevin Walsh got the final out of the eighth — enough for the win — and Jaron Gold earned the save with a 1-2-3 top of the ninth.
“That shows the depth of our pitching staff,” James said. “Hopefully it can continue to keep getting better.
“Because down in tournament times, pitching wins ballgames.”
Grambling (11-25, 8-11) scored one run each in the first two innings. In the first inning, Edwin Drexler led off with a triple and later scored on an RBI groundout.
In the second, Korey Hall was hit-by-a-pitch and an RBI single by Johnathon Tineo plated Hall from third.
“I was making the small adjustments,” Ploeger said. “Making sure I hit my spots, especially the outside corner.
“Once I did, I was able to just cruise after that.”
Grambling senior Zach Moreau pitched a complete game in a losing effort. He gave up three runs (all earned) on eight hits with two strikeouts and two walks.
“(Grambling) is a different team than they were earlier in the season,” James said. “They looked more crisp and a little more seasoned.
“They got off the bus with a different attitude. A different team than what we played down in Grambling.”
Davis led UAPB’s offense with two hits in four trips and a run scored. Alcantar was 2 for 3 with a run scored.
Tillman, Jose Hernandez and Jordan Haas all had a hit for the Lions.
“It was huge,” Ploeger said of the win. “Especially with Texas Southern fighting for first place right now.
“It was a big win. Hopefully (Saturday), we come out and play and get those other two.”