Yellow Jackets notch 6-4, 13-11 victories in Saturday action

ABILENE — The Howard Payne Yellow put the finishing touches on an American Southwest Conference baseball series sweep of the Hardin-Simmons Cowboys, claiming both games of Saturday’s doubleheader, 6-4 and 13-11, at Hunter Field.

Howard Payne opened the series with a 5-1 victory Friday night, and after two ASC series the Yellow Jackets own a 4-2 conference record and 11-7 mark overall. Hardin-Simmons tumbled to 3-6 in ASC action and 7-13 for the year.

In Saturday’s first game, the Yellow Jackets rallied from a 4-0 deficit by scoring all six of their runs in the top of the seventh and final inning.

HPU’s seventh started with a leadoff double down the left field line by Brett Quackenbush against Garrett Johnston, then Kyle Winstead followed with a single. Benjamin Lewis walked to load the bases, as Mike Richardson came on to pitch for Johnston.

A wild pitch by Richardson allowed HPU to tally its first run. Then, with one out, David Groves doubled to center field to plate Ian Tyra, running for Winstead, and Lewis to trim to Hardin-Simmons’ lead to 4-3.

Jay Holland then doubled and Bailey Smith walked to again load the bases for the Yellow Jackets, as Joshua Gerig came through with an RBI single to knot the score at 4.

Noah Payne immediately followed with a two-RBI double to left-center field that plated Smith and Holland to give HPU a 6-4 edge.

In the bottom of the seventh, Zach Moseley allowed a one-out ground rule double, but shut down Hardin-Simmons the rest of the way to collect his sixth save. Wesley Smith notched the victory on the mound, tossing one inning of relief with one run allowed on two hits with one strikeout. Kyle Ramon started for the Yellow Jackets and yielded three runs on eight hits with nine strikeouts over five innings.

Offensively, HPU amassed just six hits and drew a pair of walks. Payne, Quackenbush, Groves and Holland each doubled while Smith and Brendon Clanton singled.

In the 13-11 nightcap, the Yellow Jackets again scored in their final at-bat — chalking up four runs in the top of the ninth — to rally for the win.

Down 11-9 heading to the ninth, Payne struck out to start the frame but reached on a wild pitch, then Quackenbush followed with a game-tying two-run home run down the right field line off Kyle Johnson. Winstead immediately followed with a single off new pitcher Blake Northtrop. Following a steal, Winstead moved to third on a single through the right side by Groves, while Michael Nowak walked to load the bases. Chris Byrd then delivered a two-RBI single into center field to score Winstead and Nowak with the decisive runs.

Moseley collected his second save of the day, and seventh of the season, in the bottom of the ninth despite Hardin-Simmons loading the bases on a walk, single and error. Moseley fanned Jake Todd to secure the victory.

The win belonged to Ethan Cerna, who tossed just one-third of an inning of relief. Nathan Weyrauch started on the mound with relief from Jonathan George, Xavier Haines and Wesley Smith, as well, as the Yellow Jackets surrendered 10 earned runs on 13 hits with eight strikeouts and four walks.

At the plate for HPU, which pounded out 13 hits of its own, Byrd led the charge with three hits and four RBIs. Payne finished with three hits and an RBI, Lewis and Groves collected two hits each with Lewis plating a runner, and Quackenbush homered and drove in two. Lewis, Nowak, Tyra, Payne and Cliff Lunceford contributed RBIs as well.

The Yellow Jackets, winners of four straight overall, will play their first home games since Feb. 25 when they welcome LeTourneau (6-14, 0-9) for a three-game American Southwest Conference series Friday and Saturday. The opener will take place at 2 p.m. Friday with the final two games slated to begin at 1 p.m. Saturday at Don Shepard Park.