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ASU sweeps UALR for 1st time since '14

by Eli Lederman | April 4, 2021 at 2:37 a.m.

JONESBORO -- Arkansas State University returned home to Tomlinson Stadium this weekend for only the second time since March 10, and the Red Wolves enjoyed the surroundings.

Arkansas State leaned on 5 innings of 3-hit ball from junior Carter Holt, and a 3-RBI performance from junior catcher Liam Hicks to knock off the University of Arkansas at Little Rock 10-6 on Saturday. The three-game sweep of the Trojans was ASU's first in the Sun Belt since March 2019, and improved its home record to 6-2.

"We took a little more pride this weekend," senior center fielder Drew Tipton said. "After we got the win Friday, I think we really showed what we can do. We showed our true potential, and we didn't look back."

ASU (8-14, 3-3 Sun Belt) bounced UALR junior starting pitcher Jack DeCooman with a five-run second inning, and the Red Wolves cycled through nine Trojans pitchers while collecting 11 hits.

ASU's bullpen surrendered four runs but received support from an offense powered by Hicks and a fourth-inning home run from Tipton to secure its first sweep over UALR since 2014.

The Red Wolves and Trojans (12-11, 3-3) close the weekend in a three-way tie for second place in the Sun Belt West Division with Texas-Arlington (12-15, 3-3).

DeCooman struck out the side in the first inning, but he allowed 5 earned runs on 3 hits and 2 walks without getting an out in the second. The eight relievers combined to give up 5 runs on 8 hits and 7 walks in 7 innings.

Sophomore center fielder Tyler Williams went 2 of 4 and added 3 RBI to his team-high 26 for the Trojans, who entered the weekend winners of seven of eight games.

"It's very frustrating and disappointing to lose all three to your rival," Trojans Coach Chris Curry said. "We preach to these guys that you have to play well every weekend or this can happen."

ASU outfielders Tyler Duncan and Jaylon Deshazier led off the second inning with back-to-back singles, and Duncan scored the game's first run on DeCooman's wild pitch. Freshman Jared Toler drew a bases loaded walk that scored Deshazier, and DeCooman's outing came to a close after sophomore second basemen Garrett Olson laced a single that put the Red Wolves ahead 3-0.

Trojans senior Aaron Barkley inherited loaded bases but induced a double play that allowed junior shortstop Blake McCutchen to score. ASU's lead grew to 5-0 on Hicks' RBI single.

Hicks was 7 of 13 in the series, improving his batting average to a league-leading .431.

"He's a difference-maker," Red Wolves Coach Tommy Raffo said. "He's a top-three hitter in the league, I think. You can feel how opposing pitchers -- when he comes up -- they take things differently because of how he approaches the game."

Tipton's home run put ASU up 6-0, and Holt -- a 6-5 right-hander -- exited after five innings with two unearned runs. He struck out four batters and walked two to earn his first win of the season.

"[Pitching coach Rowdy] Hardy told me I'd be able to steal strikes if I got ahead with the fastball over the plate," Holt said. "I think most of the time I was doing that. I just wanted to come out and set the tempo."

The Red Wolves scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth for an 8-2 lead on Hicks' two-run single. Tipton later scored on senior Eli Sievert's wild pitch, capping a three-run inning for ASU.

UALR pulled within four with a three-run eighth inning, but Red Wolves senior Kollin Stone closed the final 1 2/3 innings to secure the victory.

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