Yellow Jackets extend win streak to seven, move into second place tie in conference

The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets’ rapid ascent in the American Southwest Conference baseball standings continued following their second consecutive weekend sweep.

On the heels of taking all three games at Hardin-Simmons last weekend, the Yellow Jackets responded with three home wins at Don Shepard Park over LeTourneau, 7-4 Friday and 6-1 and 16-10 in Saturday’s doubleheader, to increase their win streak to seven games overall.

The victories also vaulted Howard Payne (14-7, 7-2) into a tie for second place with UT-Dallas (18-4, 7-2) in the ASC race, just two games back of conference front-runner and second-ranked UT-Tyler (20-4, 10-1).

In Friday’s 7-4 triumph over LeTourneau (7-15, 0-12), the Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 3-0 advantage in the first inning and tacked on three additional runs in the fourth. HPU scored its final run in the seventh inning before LeTourneau scored four times in the top of the eighth.

Howard Payne chalked up 10 hits, including a solo home run by Michael Nowak and a triple from David Groves, who finished with two hits and an RBI. Joshua Gerig and Noah Payne also tallied two hits apiece while Brett Quackenbush, Benjamin Lewis and Jay Holland each contributed one hit and one RBI.

Matthew Parks improved to 4-1 as he tossed seven innings of seven-hit ball, yielding three earned runs with five strikeouts and one walk. Chad Anders worked two-thirds of an inning of relief, allowing a run on two hits. Zach Moseley recorded his eighth save, pitching 1.1 innings of perfect relief with one strikeout.

In Saturday’s 6-1 win, Kyle Ramon improved to 6-3 by yielding one run on three hits with four strikeouts and three walks over six innings for HPU. Xavier Haines tossed an inning of scoreless relief, allowing one hit and one walk with one strikeout.

Offensively, the Yellow Jackets scored two runs apiece in the second, third and sixth innings, as Howard Payne generated seven hits. Lewis led the attack with two hits and an RBI while Blake Null, Brendon Clanton, Bailey Smith and Groves each contributed a single and an RBI. Quackenbush also singled and scored twice for the Yellow Jackets.

The 16-10 series finale saw HPU rally from a 3-0 deficit after two innings to grab a 5-3 lead through three frames. The Yellow Jackets’ lead stood at 8-4 after four frames and 12-7 through the fifth as the middle innings proved prosperous for both offenses. Howard Payne extended its advantage to 15-7 through six innings and added its final run in the seventh before LeTourneau tacked on three runs in the eighth.

The Yellow Jackets’ 18-hit onslaught featured three from Quackenbush, who tripled twice and scored three runs; three from Lewis, who plated two and crossed the plate three times; and three from Payne, who also knocked in a run. Nowak added two hits and three RBIs, Groves drove in two with a pair of singles, and Cliff Lunceford added two singles and a couple of RBIs. Both Gerig and Jacob Salazar collected two RBIs with one hit, and Chris Byrd also singled.

On the mound for HPU, Joshua O’Conner picked up his first win of the season after tossing 2.2 innings of relief. O’Conner gave up two runs on three hilts with three walks. Nathan Weyrauch got the start and lasted four innings, yielding three runs — one earned, as HPU committed five errors — on three hits with two walks and a strikeout. Chandler Clark surrendered three runs in two-thirds of an inning of relief, while Wesley Smith worked the final 1.2 innings and gave up a run on a hit with one walk and two strikeouts.

The Yellow Jackets will attempt to stretch their win streak to eight games as they host Concordia (15-11, 7-5) at 2 p.m. Friday in the the first of three ASC contests at Don Shepard Park. Saturday will feature a 1 p.m. doubleheader to wrap up the series.