BELTON — The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets split their American Southwest Conference-opening doubleheader at Mary Hardin-Baylor Monday, bouncing back from a 403 loss with a 6-5 victory in a pair of seven-inning games.
The finale of the three-game series will take place April 10 in Brownwood, as the series was pushed back from its original weekend date due to rain.
In the victory for Howard Payne (5-1, 1-1), the Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Mary Hardin-Baylor (2-4, 1-1) cut the deficit to 3-2 in the second, but HPU pushed the lead to 4-2 in the top of the third. UMHB crept within 4-3 in the fifth, but the Yellow Jackets again answered immediately in the sixth to extend the advantage to 6-3. The Crusaders' rally in the bottom of the seventh came a run short.
Howard Payne was limited to five hits, but drew three walks and took advantage of two UMHB errors. Joshua Gerrig tallied two hits, while Blake Null, Jay Holland and Noah Coronado added one each.
Null's three-run home run in the top of the first plated himself, Gerrig, who singled, and Noah Payne, who was hit by a pitch.
In the third, David Groves' RBI bases-loaded walk drove in Null, who was hit by a pitch with two outs.
The Yellow Jackets tacked on two more runs in the sixth as Coronado's RBI sacrifice bunt plated Groves, who walked, while Gerrig's RBI single knocked in Holland, who singled to left field.
On the mound, Preston Newman worked the first three innings and allowed two earned runs on three hits with one walk. Jonathan George picked up the win in relief, yielding one run on two hits with two strikeouts in two innings. Dylan Vilaros tallied the save despite allowing two runs on two hits with three strikeouts and one walk in two innings.
In the loss, the Yellow Jackets scored twice in the top of the first inning, but surrendered three runs in the bottom of the frame. HPU pulled even in the top of the third, but the Crusaders scratched across the winning run in the bottom of the sixth.
The Yellow Jackets were limited to three hits — one each by Gerig, Null and Groves.
Null's two-RBI single to left field scored Gerrig and Payne, who both walked.
HPU's run in the third was the result of an RBI sac fly by Null, which drove in Payne, who walked.
Seth Owen started on the hill for HPU, allowed three runs on six hits with four strikeouts and four walks in four innings. Shawn Brody took the loss, allowing one run on one hit with one strikeout in two innings.
Next up for the Yellow Jackets is a four-game swing in Arizona as part of the Tucson Invitational. HPU faced Gustavus Adolphus in a Friday doubleheader, followed by Saturday outings against Wheaton College and Rockford University.