FORT SMITH, Ark. (April 27, 2017) - Two solid pitching performances summarized a Heartland Conference doubleheader split Thursday afternoon at Crowder Field. Arkansas Fort Smith used a complete-game two-hitter from Hayden Harvey and a five-run third inning to hand No.6 Lubbock Christian University their first shutout loss of the season, but LCU rallied from the 5-0 loss with a three-hitter from Daniel Crooks en route to a 5-2 win in the second game to maintain a 2.0 game lead atop the Heartland Conference standings.
Harvey, coming off a complete-game shutout performance at Oklahoma Christian last week, had a no-hit bid for 4.1 innings before Chase Simmons singled to right field to end the no-hit threat. The senior hurler had first-pitch strike to 11 of the first 13 batters he faced. He completed the game with eight strikeouts and faced three batters over the minimum in the win to improve to 7-4 on the season.
Ricky Contreras started for LCU and his defense initially had his back. Despite giving up hits to consecutive batters in the second inning, he ended up facing the minimum in the inning, as LCU recorded two outs at home plate to avoid surrendering the game’s opening run. They would not match the luck in the third inning. A dropped third strike to leadoff batter Brennan Dooly allowed him to reach and then four singles followed. Dion Williams singled to right field with the bases loaded, but a pair of errors led to three runs coming across as part of the five-run third inning. Four of the five runs were earned, as Contreras went the distance allowing one earned run off eight hits in seven innings. He struck out six batters.His string of consecutive innings pitched without allowing a run ended at 16.2 innings and his streak of starts with a win ended at eight (8-1 season record).
Jaime Bustamante had the only other hit for LCU, with an infield single in the sixth inning. It was followed by a double play. Williams and Jace Pitchford each went 2-for-3 for the Lions.
Crooks allowed one hit through the first three innings for the Chaps, but LCU trailed 1-0 after the third inning, as the lone hit allowed was a solo home run in the second inning by Kasey Cooper for his fifth longball of the season. LCU matched the run in the top of the fourth inning with a solo leadoff home run by Ryan Rogers for his first home run of the season. USAF regained the lead in the bottom half of the fourth inning, as Williams led off with his 11th triple of the season and scored on Cooper’s ground-out. The USAF 2-1 lead did not last long, as LCU produced a pair of extra-base hits in the fifth inning.Brent Stewart double in Brandon Urquizo and Bustamante followed with his fifth triple of the season to give LCU their first lead of the game and the series at 3-2. Bustamante was thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice, but Tony Reyes followed to reach base and it moved Brandon Rix to third base. That set up a sacrifice fly by Ryan Rogers to extend the lead to 4-2.
UAFS had the tying run aboard in the eighth inning with one out, but Crooks was able to get Nick Yoning and Williams to fly out to escape the jam. Rogers added an insurance run with a two-out double off the left field fence in the top of the ninth inning to extend the Chaps lead to 5-2. Christian Marquez closed the door with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth inning for his fourth save of the season.
Crooks went eight innings and allowed two runs off three hits and struck out nine batters. He improved to 7-1 on the season and has allowed a total of 10 hits in his last three combined starts covering 21 innings. The loss went to Evan Dodd, who allowed three runs off five hits in four innings to fall to 4-3. Dawson Floyd pitched the final 4.2 innings in relief and allowed one run off four hits in his longest relief outing of the season for UAFS.
LCU produced 11 hits in the game. Bustamante led the Chaps with a 3-for-5 performance at the plate. Rogers (2-for-3) was one of five multi-hit performers for LCU and led the team with three RBI. Cooper had both of the Lions RBI.
The Chaps record moved to 33-11 overall and 16-4 in conference play. The Lions had their record go to 27-17 overall and 14-6 in conference. LCU, ranked No.3 in the NCAA’s South Central Region Poll, claimed their first win all-time on Arkansas soil with their win in the second game (1-6). The Chaps and USAF, ranked No.7 in the regional poll, close out their three-game series with a rubber match Friday at 1 p.m. at Crowder Field.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
.125 | LCU (3-for-18) and UAFS (1-for-14) combined to go 4-for-32 (.125) at the plate in two-out at-bats.
.500 | Jaime Bustamante led LCU with a .500 batting average on the day, going 4-for-8 at the plate.
2-for-2 | UAFS was 2-for-2 with the bases loaded Thursday.
4-for-4 | The Lions were a perfect 4-for-4 scoring the runner home from third base with less than two outs.