Jackets slip to sixth in ASC standings having lost five of last six

BELTON — Howard Payne split a Saturday doubleheader with the Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders, but a Friday night loss resulted in a second straight American Southwest Conference series defeat for the Yellow Jackets.

Howard Payne took the middle game of the series, 5-4, but suffered an opening 4-1 loss to UMHB and a 6-3 closing defeat as the Yellow Jackets have dropped five of six games after reeling off seven straight wins.

The Yellow Jackets (15-12, 8-7) have also slipped from a tie for second place in the ASC standings to sixth place over the last two weekends. Mary Hardin-Baylor (15-14, 9-6) moved ahead of HPU into fifth place with the series victory.

In HPU’s 5-4 victory, the Yellow Jackets scored the winning run in the top of the eighth inning of the seven-inning regulation contest.

David Groves singled to start the eighth, moved to third base on a passed ball and wild throw by the catcher, then scored on an RBI sacrifice fly by Chris Byrd.

The Yellow Jackets rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the fourth inning as Michael Nowak doubled to left field with one out, then Bailey Smith launched a two-run homer to left field to even the score. Joshua Gerig followed with a walk, then a Cliff Lunceford single to right field, coupled with an errant throw to third base, allowed Gerig to score and push HPU in front, 4-3.

UMHB drew even at 4 in the bottom of the seventh as Ty Johnson led off the frame with a home run against Zach Moseley.

Moseley eventually tallied his first win of the season, allowing one run on two hits with one walk and three strikeouts in two innings. Jonathan George started and lasted 3.2 innings, giving up three runs on four hits with five strikeouts and four walks. Xavier Haines and Wesley Smith combined to pitch 2.1 innings of scoreless relief with one hit, three walks and two strikeouts between them.

At the plate, HPU’s 12-hit attack featured two each from Lunceford, Groves, Nowak and Kyle Winstead and one apiece from Smith, Gerig, Brett Quackenbush and Benjamin Lewis.

In Friday night’s 4-1 opening loss, UMHB pitchers Nathan Kent and Aaron Barteau limited the Yellow Jackets to a second-inning run and just three hits while striking out a dozen.

Quackenbush, Groves and Winstead all singled while Ian Tyra picked up the RBI.

The Yellow Jackets’ run in the second inning was the result of an RBI fielder’s choice by Tyra that scored Groves, who walked to start the frame.

UMHB answered with two runs in the bottom of the second and insurance runs in the third and eighth.

Matthew Parks pitched eight innings for HPU and gave up three runs on five hits with four strikeouts and seven walks as he was saddled with the loss. Wesley Smith gave up a run in his one inning of relief, walking one batter while striking out three.

Dakota Best and Jackson Godoy tallied RBIs for UMHB, while Godoy, Johnson, Mitch Patterson, Austin Blanford and Caleb Davis collected hits.

In the series finale, UMHB broke a 3-all tie with the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fifth inning and tacked on two insurance runs in the sixth.

Howard Payne erased a 2-0 deficit in the top of the third inning and a 3-2 deficit in the fourth.

The Yellow Jackets’ third-inning saw Byrd draw a walk and Bailey Smith get hit by a pitch ahead of a Gerig sacrifice. A two-RBI single up the middle by Lunceford knotted the score.

In the fourth, Jacob Salazar led off with a double and scored on a one-out RBI single by Byrd.

HPU finished with just six hits — by Gerig, Lunceford, Winstead, Salazar, Byrd and Noah Payne — off UMHB pitchers Evan Samoff, Tyler Nelson and Barteau.

Kyle Ramon took the loss on the mound for HPU, yielding four runs — three earned — on five hits with six walks and four strikeouts over five innings.

The Yellow Jackets visit McMurry (11-20, 5-10) for a three-game ASC set Thursday night and Friday afternoon.