FORT SMITH – Two UAFS pitchers combined to shutout Rogers State in the second game of Thursday’s Heartland Conference baseball doubleheader as the Lions beat the Hillcats 5-0 at Crowder Field.
The win helped the Lions (18-15, 5-6) salvage a split in the doubleheader – UAFS lost the opening game 13-9 – and keep their hopes of winning the series against the Hillcats (24-11, 8-3) alive going into Friday’s 1 p.m., nine-inning finale.
UAFS starter Korbin Polly (1-0) made just his second start in nine appearances and earned the win, allowing no runs on six hits with one walk and two strikeouts over seven complete innings. Lions reliever Foster Pace allowed no runs on two hits with one strikeout over two innings.
Hillcats right fielder Griffin Keller was 3 for 4 and center fielder Christian Merriwether was 2 for 5 to lead Rogers State, which left 11 runners on base and eight in scoring position.
The Lions got all the offense they needed in the bottom of the fifth inning when center fielder Travis Young led off with a double and scored on a one-out, sacrifice fly to center fielder by left fielder Spencer Sackett.
UAFS added four more runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh off previously undefeated Rogers State starter Jackson Simonsgaard to pad its lead. Second baseman Logan Easley had a RBI triple, third baseman Brooks Sunny a RBI single and right fielder Logan Allen a two-RBI double.
Simonsgaard (6-1) suffered the loss, allowing five earned runs on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts over seven innings. Reliever CJ Edwards allowed no hits, runs or walks and struck out two in one inning of relief.
Easley was 2 for 3 with a triple and one RBI, Allen was 1 for 2 with a double and two RBIs, Young was 1 for 4 with a double, shortstop Brandan Warner was 1 for 4 with a double and catcher Dylan Hurt was 1 for 2.
Rogers State used big offensive innings to stun UAFS in the opening game, scoring six runs during an 11-batter first inning, four runs during a nine-batter sixth inning and three runs during the seventh inning.
UAFS had big innings, too, scoring three runs in the first and four runs in the fourth, which allowed the Lions to rally from a 6-0 deficit to lead 7-6, but it could muster only two more runs over the final three innings.
Lions starter Javon Rigsby (4-4) suffered the loss, allowing eight runs – only three earned due in part to a key first-inning error – on eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts over five innings. Reliever Cameron Highfill allowed two earned runs on three hits in just 1/3 of an inning, while reliever Ryan Horn allowed three earned runs on three hits with one walk and one strikeout over 1 2/3 innings.
Merriwether was 4 for 5 with four RBIs – he had two singles and two RBIs during the Hillcats’ big first inning – to lead Rogers State. Left fielder Brandon Bradshaw was 2 for 5 with double and three RBIs, shortstop Zack Mann was 1 for 4 with a double and two RBIs, first baseman Grant Farris was 1 for 5 with a home run and two RBIs and right fielder Griffin Keller was 2 for 4 with one RBI.
UAFS had only six hits off Rogers State starter Corey Murphy and reliever Brock Knoten, including four for extra bases, and left only two runners on base. Young was 1 for 3 with a home run and three RBIs, first baseman Kyle Love was 1 for 4 with a double, Warner was 2 for 3 with a double and three RBIs, Sunny was 1 for 2 with a double and second baseman Logan Easley was 1 for 3 with one RBI.
UAFS trailed 6-0 but cut its deficit in half on a three-run, two-out home run by Young in the bottom of the first inning that was extended because of a leadoff error by the Hillcats. The Lions took the a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning on a RBI single by Easley and a two-run double by Warner, who later scored on an error.
Rogers State answered with four runs in the sixth inning to regain the lead for good, scoring on a RBI single by Merriwether, a two-run double by Mann and a one-out, RBI double by Bradshaw to push its lead to 10-7.
UAFS pulled within one run (10-9) in the bottom of the sixth inning on a RBI single by Sunny and a RBI fielder’s choice by Allen – both runs were unearned thanks to the final two of the Hillcats’ four errors.
Rogers State scored three more in the top of the seventh on RBI single by Merriwether and a two-out, two-run home run by Farris.
ROGERS STATE 13, UAFS 9
Rogers State 600 004 3 — 13 14 4
UAFS 300 402 0 — 9 6 1
Murphy, Knoten (6) and Ford; Rigsby, Highfill (6), Horn (6) and Hurt. W – Murphy, 7-3. L – Rigsby, 4-4. Sv – Knoten (8). HRs – Rogers State, Farris (7); UAFS, Young (4).
UAFS 5, ROGERS STATE 0
Rogers State 000 000 000 — 0 8 0
UAFS 000 010 40X — 5 7 3
Simonsgaard, Edwards (8) and Ford; Polly, Pace (8) and Hurt. W – Polly, 1-0. L – Simonsgaard, 6-1. HRs – None.