JONESBORO -- Pitching ruled most of Thursday night's series opener between in-state rivals University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Arkansas State University.
Then Ryan Benavidez went to work in extra innings.
UALR AT ARKANSAS STATE
WHEN 6:30 p.m.
WHERE Tomlinson Stadium, Jonesboro
RECORDS UALR 26-26, 16-11 Sun Belt Conference; ASU 26-27, 11-17
UALR's senior right fielder crushed a first-pitch home run off ASU reliever Jack Jumper (2-3) in the top of the 11th inning, and the Trojans held on for a 2-1 victory over the Red Wolves at Tomlinson Stadium.
"That's one of the biggest hits I've had in my two years here," Benavidez said. "It means a lot to me and my teammates. I couldn't be more happier for those guys on the bus."
Benavidez went 2 for 5 to lead the Trojans (26-26), who are in third place in the Sun Belt Conference West Division at 16-11 with two games remaining and have qualified for the conference tournament.
ASU had a runner at first base with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning, but UALR closer Donavin Buck (5-4) struck out Andrew Leggo to end it.
UALR Coach Chris Curry called the victory "gutsy" for his team.
"It's a picture of how these guys have been playing all year," Curry said. "It may not have been pretty all the time, but these guys don't blink. They don't panic when they don't go well."
ASU (26-27, 11-17) must win their final two games today and Saturday against UALR and have Louisiana-Lafayette defeat Louisiana-Monroe twice in order to reach the Sun Belt Tournament.
"We've been back against the wall the last couple of weeks, really, to be honest with you," ASU Coach Tommy Raffo said. "We've got two games left. We've got to find a way to win."
The series opener featured solid starting pitching performances from left-handers Chandler Fidel of UALR and Chandler Coates of ASU.
Fidel allowed 1 run (none earned) on 6 hits, walked 1 and struck out 8 in 81/3 innings.
"I think he needs to be considered for [Sun Belt] pitcher of the year," Curry said. "Our Friday night guy in the biggest game of the year puts us on his back."
Coates went 9 innings, striking out 9 and walking 1 while allowing 1 run on 6 hits.
"He filled up the strike zone with all of his pitches," Raffo said.
UALR took a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning on first baseman James Gann's sacrifice fly, an advantage that held until the bottom of the ninth inning.
Fidel walked his first batter of the game with one out in the ninth, putting ASU catcher Justin Felix on. On a 1-2 pitch, second baseman Tyler Duncan singled to left field and Felix advanced to third base.
ASU tied the game at 1-1 when UALR third baseman Nick Perez was charged with a fielding error as he couldn't handle left fielder Jaylon Deshazier's ground ball. Felix scored on the play, then Fidel was relieved by Buck.
Buck struck out pinch-hitter Jake Karst and got Will Huber, another pitch-hitter, to ground out to shortstop to send the game to extra innings.
Raffo saw the 2019 UALR team for the first time Thursday night and came away impressed.
"They've done a great job in the second half of the season," Raffo said. "They've got an older team. They're well-coached. You've got to give them some credit. They did a great job tonight."
Sports on 05/17/2019
Print Headline: UALR wins on Benavidez's HR