ABILENE — In their first game since a Feb. 6 van rollover accident that injured seven players and two staff members, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets on Thursday night earned their first baseball victory of the season, 6-5 over the McMurry Warhawks.
Facing an American Southwest Conference foe in non-conference action, the Yellow Jackets scored twice in the top of the seventh inning to forge ahead for good. Earlier in the contest, a four-run top of the fifth staked Howard Payne to a 4-2 advantage, but McMurry rallied with three runs in the bottom of the sixth.
The Yellow Jackets (1-5), who opened the season with five games at NCAA Division II Hawaii Pacific, handed McMurry (2-2) its second straight loss after the Warhawks took two of three games from Schreiner this past weekend.
Howard Payne generated eight hits including two by center fielder Noah Payne, who also drove in three runs and scored twice from his leadoff spot in the batting order. Shortstop Joshua Gerig, catcher Ty McCain, first baseman R.J. Roberts, third baseman Jacob Salazar, left fielder Cliff Lunceford and second baseman Jacob Rodriguez added hits as well. Right fielder Nolyn Box contributed the only other Yellow Jacket RBI.
On the mound, Chandler Clark, Kory Owen, Ben Schardt, Xavier Haines and Brenden Clanton combined to toss an eight-hitter with 10 strikeouts and no walks. Owen was credited with the win in relief of Clark, who worked the first five innings. Clanton collected the save.
Down 2-0 heading to the fifth inning, HPU grabbed the lead as Salazar led off with a walk then Lunceford and Rodriguez reached on bunt singles to load the bases. Payne followed with a bases-clearing, three-RBI double down the left field line to push the Yellow Jackets in front, 3-2. After Payne moved to third base on a wild pitch, Gerig reached on a fielding error that allowed Payne to score the fourth run.
With McMurry back in front 5-4 in the top of the seventh, Payne led off with a single and moved to third on a one-out base hit by McCain. With runners on the corners and one out, a balk sent Payne home with the tying run. Roberts followed with a single through the left side, but McCain was held at third base. Box then came through with an RBI sacrifice fly to center field that plated McCain with the decisive run.
Howard Payne and McMurry will play two more non-conference games beginning at noon Saturday at Don Shepard Park in Brownwood.