JACKSON, Mississippi — Playing their first full American Southwest Conference baseball series of the season, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets dropped two of three contests to the Belhaven Blazers over the weekend.
Belhaven picked up an 8-0 victory in the series opener, Howard Payne bounced back with a 8-5 triumph, but the Blazers answered with a 12-9 win in Saturday’ finale.
Howard Payne (9-4, 2-3) — which won three of four games in Tucson, Arizona last weekend — mustered just four hits and committed three errors in Friday’s series opener.
Dylan Vilaros took the loss in the opener with Belhaven (5-11, 3-6), allowing five runs — four earned — on six hits with six strikeouts, two walks and three wild pitches in five innings. Kyle Purdes worked the final inning and gave up three runs — one earned — on one hit, two walks and a wild pitch.
Blake Laney doubled, while David Groves, J.W. Ledbetter and Cliff Lunceford singled to account for the HPU base hits.
The Yellow Jackets rebounded in the nightcap of Friday’s twin bill, scoring in five of the nine innings. Knotted at 3 after four innings, Howard Payne regained a 4-3 edge in the fifth and stretched the lead to 6-3 in the top of the seventh. After Belhaven trimmed the deficit to one run, the Yellow Jackets scored twice more in the ninth.
HPU’s 10-hit attack featured homers from Laney and Benjamin Lewis, along with a triple from Noah Payne. Lunceford recorded three singles while Payne, Laney and Lewis chipped in two hits each and Jacob Rodriguez added one.
On the mound, Seth Owen notched the win, giving up three earned runs on two hits with four strikeouts, five walks and two wild pitches. Jonathan George worked two innings and relief and yielded two runs on four hits with three strikeouts and one walk. Brenden Clanton recorded the save, giving up one hit with two strikeouts over the final 2.2 innings.
Laney’s two-run homer in the top of the first got HPU on the board, while Lewis led off with a solo shot in the second.
HPU regained a 4-3 lead in the fifth as Laney singled home Lunceford, who singled to start the frame.
The Yellow Jackets’ two-run seventh saw Payne triple home Lunceford, while Salazar reached on an error that allowed Payne to come home.
The final two Howard Payne runs in the ninth were the result of Salazar singling home Lunceford, and Payne scoring on a passed ball.
In the finale, Belhaven broke a 3-all tie in the bottom of the fourth with a five-spot. Howard Payne scored three more runs in the fifth to close the gap to 8-6, and crept within one in the top of the seventh, but the Blazers stretched the lead to 11-7 in the bottom of the frame.
HPU collected 16 hits including a home run from reigning ASC Hitter of the Week Blake Null. Lewis led the charge with four hits followed by three each from Null and Lunceford, two from Rodriguez and one apiece from Payne, Laney, Groves and Noah Coronado.
On the mound, Preston Newman took the loss, giving up six runs — four earned — on eight hits with one strikeout and one walk in 3.1 innings. Shawn Brody, Wesley Smith and Evan Rodriguez combined to surrender six runs on six hits with three strikeouts over the last 4.2 frames.
Trailing 3-0, HPU drew even in the top of the third on RBI singles by Lewis and Rodriguez and an error during Null’s at-bat.
In the Yellow Jackets’ three-run fifth, Rodriguez doubled home a run and later scored on a passed ball, as did Lewis.
Groves singled home Lewis in the seventh, while Null’s two-run homer in the eighth, which also scored Lunceford after a single, capped HPU’s weekend scoring.
The Yellow Jackets host Hardin-Simmons (7-9, 5-4) at 2 p.m. Tuesday in ASC action, then welcome Ozarks (8-7, 3-3) for a three-game ASC series Friday and Saturday. Doubleheader action begins at 1 p.m. Friday with the series finale at 1 p.m. Saturday.