ABILENE — Playing their first American Southwest Conference baseball contest since Feb. 25, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets evened their league mark by taking the opener of a three-game set with the Hardin-Simmons Cowboys, 5-1, Friday night at Hunter Field.
The Yellow Jackets (9-7, 2-2) chalked up two runs in both the third and fifth innings and added an insurance run in the ninth.
Hardin-Simmons (7-11, 2-3) mustered just one run off HPU starting pitcher Matthew Parks, who worked seven innings and surrendered nine hits while striking out four. Xavier Haines and Zach Moseley each contributed an inning of scoreless relief.
Hardin-Simmons’ pitching combination of Jeremy Hallmark, Kyle Barnett and Taylor Cooling gave up five earned runs on 10 hits and also issued eight walks.
Brett Quackenbush ignited the HPU offense with two hits and a pair of RBIs while Benjamin Lewis doubled and drove in two. Kyle Winstead chipped in a single and an RBI, Michael Nowak singled twice, Joshua Gerig doubled and Noah Payne, Cliff Lunceford and David Groves each tallied one hit.
HPU grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the third as Nowak singled to center field to start the frame. With one out, Gerig and Payne drew walks to load the sacks. Quackenbush followed with a two-RBI single to right field which plated Nowak and Gerig.
Hardin-Simmons answered with a run in the bottom of the third as Gunny Evans led off with a single, Cooling followed with a double and Zack de Luna’s RBI sacrifice fly to center field drove home the only Cowboy run.
The Yellow Jackets extended their lead to 4-1 in the fifth as Gerig and Payne again walked to start the inning, then Quackenbush singled to load the bases with no outs. Winstead’s RBI infield single to shortstop plated Gerig, while Lewis’ RBI fielder’s choice scored Payne.
The final HPU run in the top of the ninth was the result of Lewis’ two-out RBI double to left-center field that knocked in Gerig, who started the inning with a double down the right field line.
Games 2 and 3 of the series will take place beginning at 1 p.m. today.