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The Little Rock native shut out his hometown team and carried his Red Wolves into the postseason.

Junior right-hander Nate Alberius (Little Rock Christian) led Arkansas State University to a 4-1 victory over the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Friday night at Gary Hogan Field in Little Rock. Alberius threw a complete game while allowing 2 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk and 5 strikeouts.

Alberius (6-4, 4.43 ERA) surrendered his only run in the eighth inning -- a home run to right field by UALR junior right fielder Troy Alexander -- and entered the ninth inning with 100 pitches.

"They wanted to pull me," Alberius said. "But I'm going to be sore anyways, so I might as well go out and finish it."

Ten pitches later, Alberius retired the final batter on a grounder.

ASU (20-30, 11-18 Sun Belt Conference) clinched one of the final spots in the 10-team Sun Belt Tournament , and UALR (26-26, 14-14) no longer is in contention for its first West Division title and the No. 2 overall seed.

The Trojans can reach only as high as the Sun Belt's No. 6 seed, and the Red Wolves can reach as high as No. 8.

"These are two huge wins we got here in back-to-back days, and hopefully we get a sweep and put ourselves in a really good position, jump in front of a few teams," said Alberius, who threw his second complete game of the season. "We're playing postseason [type] baseball just in time."

Alberius gave up just one hit during the first five innings -- a first-inning double by junior left fielder Ryan Benavidez, which was erased when the next two batters grounded out to end the inning.

UALR starting left-hander Cole Townsend (3-3, 4.64) surrendered his first base runner in the second when he hit Red Wolves junior left fielder Cole Vaughan to lead off the inning. The next batter, senior right fielder Winston Welch, hit an 0-2 pitch to center field for an RBI double that put ASU up 1-0.

The Trojans attempted to score in the second when junior third baseman Nick Perez drew a two-out walk and stole second base. But junior right fielder Troy Alexander popped out to first on a 3-2 count to end the inning.

"We did not give ourselves a chance to win," UALR Coach Chris Curry said.

Red Wolves sophomore center fielder Drew Tipton made a leaping grab in the third inning, bouncing off the fence in right center, to rob Benavidez of an extra-base hit and end the inning.

The Red Wolves loaded the bases with one out in the top of the sixth to knock out Townsend. Welch hit an RBI single off Trojans junior right-handed reliever Donavin Buck to go up 2-0. Two batters later, sophomore catcher Cullen Ray hit a two-run single, which chopped over the glove of Trojans junior shortstop Matt Merino.

ASU and UALR conclude their series today at 1 p.m. The Red Wolves last swept the Trojans in a three-game series in 2012.

"We need to get back into the winning ways going into the tournament," Curry said. "Still playing for a good seed going down to Lafayette. It's also senior day, so we need to send those guys out the right way. Most importantly, just for our confidence, going into the tournament on the winning side."

SOUTHLAND

NICHOLLS STATE 4, CENTRAL ARKANSAS 0

First baseman Tyler Smith had two hits Friday, but the University of Central Arkansas was held to five total as Nicholls State claimed a series victory in Thibodaux, La.

The Colonels (25-30, 13-16 Southland Conference) took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a Chet Niehaus RBI double down the right-field line. Nicholls State got an RBI sacrifice fly from Gage Teer in the fourth, an RBI single in the fifth from Lee Clark and a fielding error by UCA shortstop Josh Somdecerff in the sixth that allowed Teer to score and give Nicholls State a 4-0 lead.

Keaton Presley, Justin McCarty and T.J. Black had the remaining hits for the Bears (32-22, 17-12), who stranded six runners.

Niehaus, Clark and Joey Morales all went 2 for 4 to lead the Colonels, who finished with 12 hits and left 9 runners on base. Alex Ernestine pitched a complete game for Nicholls State, allowing 2 walks with 10 strikeouts on 132 pitches. Cody Davenport took the loss after allowing 3 runs -- 2 earned -- on 9 hits with 1 walk and 3 strikeouts over 5 innings.

Sports on 05/19/2018

Print Headline: Red Wolves earn way into tourney

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