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Trojans' bats sputter at home

by Eli Lederman | May 17, 2021 at 1:58 a.m.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock's bats fell silent at Gary Hogan Field on Sunday, sinking the Trojans in the rubber game of their series against Appalachian State.

The hosts mustered five hits in the 5-0 defeat and stranded six runners, shut down by Mountaineers starter Trey Tujetsch (1-5) and left-handed reliever Eli Ellington who earned his fourth save in three innings of scoreless work.

In their last 18 innings, UALR (20-26, 10-11 Sun Belt Conference) has produced only nine hits and one run with an offense sputtering as its enters the regular season's final week.

"It's about the mental approach," Trojans Coach Chris Curry said. "It just boils down to every player taking accountability for himself and being able to overcome failure. Baseball is a game of failure and right now a lot of guys are having a hard time."

UALR's slow bats couldn't overcome a pair of early errors, a two-run sixth inning and late scoring from the Mountaineers (18-28, 9-9) in dropping its third consecutive weekend series in the final homestand of the season. Right-hander Jacob Weatherley (2-2) took the loss and was one of nine UALR pitchers to appear. Appalachian State's Luke Drumheller, scored in the first inning and drove in a run in the sixth, and Robbie Young led the Mountaineers with three hits.

Tejetsch held the Trojans in check over six shutout innings, attacking the outside of the plate with his fastball to get ahead and relied on breaking pitches late in the count. He allowed four hits and struck out four, retiring UALR in order in the first, third and sixth innings on the way to his first win of the season.

The defeat leaves UALR two games behind Louisiana-Lafayette and a game back of Texas-Arlington, still in contention for the Sun Belt West title heading into the final weekend of the regular season. The Trojans will conclude with three games at Georgia State beginning Friday having lost nine of their last 11 games.

"We need to get back to playing good, Trojan baseball," Curry said. "Our goal for the last month has been to be playing our best baseball at the end of the season. We haven't done that."

Appalachian State's Bailey Welch reached third when left fielder Miguel Soto dropped his line drive on the game's first pitch before he was called out on appeal for missing second base.

The first defensive error of the inning didn't cost the Trojans, but the second did. Drumheller reached on a throwing error by shortstop Eldridge Figueroa, and later scored on Tyler Leek's single to open the scoring.

"Although [Weatherley] minimized the damage in the inning, I felt those errors really set the tone for the day," Curry said.

John Michael Russ -- one of five seniors in the Trojans' lineup on Senior Day -- recorded two hits and contributed to UALR's strongest threats.

He led off the second inning with a single, and Noah Dickerson followed with a base hit. The pair made it to second and third on Nathan Lyons' sacrifice bunt but were left there after Tyler Williams went down swinging and Tim Dixon flew out.

Russ singled again in the fourth inning and reached scoring position behind Kobe Barnum on Dickerson's sacrifice bunt in the fourth inning before the rally quickly ended without runs when Lyons struck out and Williams -- who went 0-3 -- flew out to right field.

UALR made no use of Christian Bernabe's pinch-hit single in the fifth nor Dixon's leadoff double in the eighth, part of a series of missed opportunities Curry lamented.

"In those situations we're not looking for a three-run homer," he said. "In that spot, the job is to put the ball into the field. The hitters know that and they didn't execute."

Sawyer Smallwood worked smoothly into the fifth but exited after giving up a one-out double to Phillip Cole.

Rekiever Luke Wallner balked to send Cole to third and Andrew Terrell scored him with a single up the middle one pitch later. The Mountaineers soon led 3-0 on Drumheller's sacrifice fly off Erik McKnight, a run charged to Wallner who allowed three singles before he was pulled without recording an out.

Appalachian State padded its lead with runs in the eighth and ninth innings while Ellington retired nine of the 11 batters he faced.

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