HPU rallies from four down in nightcap for second victory

The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets split a Saturday non-conference doubleheader against American Southwest Conference rival McMurry at Don Shepard Park, chalking up a 9-4 victory in the nightcap after suffering a 4-1 loss in the opener.

In Saturday’s second game, the Yellow Jackets (2-6) overcame a four-run McMurry (3-3) second-inning by tallying a pair of runs in the fourth, four more in the sixth to grab the lead, and three insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh.

Howard Payne generated six hits — one each from designated hitter Joshua Gerig, first baseman R.J. Roberts, left fielder Stephen Prewitt, third baseman Manny Torralba, center fielder Cliff Lunceford and catcher Zach Gingrich — drew five walks and took advantage of three McMurry errors.

On the mound, freshman Bryson Lyro went the distance for Howard Payne, tossing a complete-game five-hitter with five strikeouts, one walk, one hit batter and three earned runs allowed.

Trailing by four runs heading to the bottom of the fourth, HPU shaved McMurry’s lead in half. Right fielder Nolyn Box was plunked by a Juan Valadez pitch with one out, and Prewitt suffered the same fate with two down. Torralba followed with a two-RBI triple to cut the War Hawks’ advantage to 4-2.

Howard Payne grabbed a 6-4 lead in the sixth as Gerig led off with a single to right field, then Roberts and Prewitt walked with one out to fill the sacks. Gerig scored ahead of a walk to Torralba that again loaded the bases. Roberts later came home on a wild pitch to even the score, then Lunceford reached on a error, which brought home Prewitt with the go-ahead run. Before the inning ended, pinch hitter Kade Coleman’s RBI sacrifice fly plated Torralba with the sixth run.

The Yellow Jackets tacked on three more runs in the seventh as Roberts reached on a two-out error and scored when Prewitt followed with an RBI single to center field. Torralba then walked ahead of Lunceford’s RBI single to right field that scored Prewitt. Gingrich later delivered an RBI single up the middle that scored Torralba with the final run of the day.

After rallying past McMurry, 6-5, for their first victory of the season Thursday night, the Yellow Jackets witnessed the War Hawks return the favor in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.

Howard Payne carried a narrow 1-0 advantage into the top of the sixth inning of the seven-inning affair, where McMurry scored all its runs.

McMurry’s fifth featured a one-out double by Josh Burnett, followed an RBI single to left field by Payton Stokes that plated Burnett with the tying run. Xavier Haines then came on in relief of Johnny Cravey — who started the sixth inning for HPU and retired one batter — and yielded a two-RBI triple to Mike Gonzales that pushed McMurry in front. Gonzales later scored from third on a balk.

Brownwood graduate Seth Owen started on the mound for HPU and pitched 4.1 scoreless innings, allowing five hits and two walks with five strikeouts. Ryan Richardson recorded the final two outs of the fifth. Cravey took the loss, allowing three runs on two hits with a strikeout and walk. Haines tossed 2/3 innings of an inning and gave up a run and a hit, and Graham White worked the seventh inning, tallying two strikeouts with no base-runners.

The Yellow Jackets grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second as Lunceford, who singled through the right side with one out, came home when center fielder Noah Payne reached on a two-out error.

Howard Payne tallied just five hits — doubles by Box and third baseman Jacob Salazar and singles by Gerig, Roberts and Lunceford.

J.T. Barnes picked up the win for McMurry, allowing one run on five hits in 4.2 innings. Nick Hamel notched the save with 2.1 shutout innings.

The Yellow Jackets host Schreiner at noon Tuesday in a non-conference doubleheader, then venture to Louisiana College Friday and Saturday for their first three ASC games of the season.