HPU takes two of three from Sul Ross, improves to 13-2 against league foes

The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets earned their fifth consecutive American Southwest Conference baseball series victory, taking two of three games from the Sul Ross Lobos Friday and Saturday at Don Shepard Park.

The Yellow Jackets began the weekend with a 5-1 triumph Friday, Howard Payne’s 10th consecutive conference home victory. Sul Ross responded with an 8-4 win in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader, but HPU bounced back in the nightcap with a 10-5 victory.

In Friday’s first game, Howard Payne (19-10, 13-2) — which maintained its lead in the ASC standings with the series victory — tallied three runs in second inning and two more in the third, while yielding a single run to Sul Ross (12-12, 8-4) in the top of the eighth.

On the mound, Chandler Clark gave up one run on five hits with six strikeouts and two walks in seven innings to notch the victory. Kory Owen faced just four batters in the eighth inning and recorded one strikeout, while Brenden Clanton worked the ninth and yielded only one hit.

At the plate, the Yellow Jackets compiled nine hits — two each from Joshua Gerig and Jacob Rodriguez, and one apiece from Noah Payne, Ty McCain, R.J. Roberts, David Groves, and Nolyn Box.

In Howard Payne’s second inning, Groves led off with a single and Rylee McGee and Box followed with walks to load the bases. Rodriguez came through with an RBI single to right field that scored Groves, then Cliff Lunceford hit into a double play, but McGee was able to cross the plate. Payne capped the scoring in the frame with an RBI single that plated Box.

The Yellow Jackets’ third inning featured a Roberts single, a Groves walk, and a one-out, two-RBI double from Box that plated both base runners.

HPU’s win in the series finale saw the Yellow Jackets jump out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first, only for Sul Ross to even the score in the third. Howard Payne regained a 4-3 lead in the third that grew to 7-3 in the fourth. Sul Ross trimmed the deficit to 7-5 in the fifth, but the Jackets tacked on one insurance run in the sixth and two more in the eighth inning.

The 15-hit onslaught by the Yellow Jackets included three from Gerig, two apiece from Payne, McCain, Lunceford, Manny Torralba, and Keldon Crawford, and one each from Roberts and Rodriguez.

Preston Newman, Johnny Cravey, Ryan Richardson, Xavier Haines and Clanton combined to surrender five earned runs on 12 hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

The Yellow Jackets’ first inning featured back-to-back singles by Payne and Gerig, then consecutive walks from McCain and Roberts, which produced the first run. McGee hit into a double play, which allowed Gerig to score the second run, then McCain scored on a passed ball during Torralba’s first at-bat.

HPU regained a 4-3 lead in the third on an RBI sacrifice fly by McGee, which brought home McCain, who reached on a fielder’s choice.

The Yellow Jackets pushed the advantage to 7-3 in the fourth as Rodriguez singled with one out, advanced to second on a passed ball and came home on Lunceford’s RBI single to left field. Payne then followed with a two-run home run to right-center field.

Howard Payne tacked on another run in the sixth on McCain’s RBI single down the right field line that plated Gerig, who singled with one out and then stole second base.

The eighth-inning runs for the Yellow Jackets were the result of Torralba’s two-out, two-RBI double down the right field line that plated Seth Heupel, pinch-running after a McCain single, and McGee, who walked.

In the Yellow Jackets’ 8-4 loss, Howard Payne jumped out to a 2-0 lead through two innings, but gave up four runs in the third — part of eight straight runs scored by the Lobos.

Bryson Lyro took the loss for the Jackets, allowing five runs on six hits with three strikeouts and three walks in five innings. Ben Schardt, Richardson and Graham White gave up two runs on three hits with one strikeout in two combined innings of relief.

Payne and Rodriguez tallied two hits apiece for HPU while Gerig, McCain, Lunceford and Noah Coronado added one each.

McCain’s RBI sac fly scored Payne in the first, while Rodriguez’s RBI ground out brought home Coronado in the second.

HPU added two runs in the sixth as an RBI single from Lunceford scored Groves, while Payne singled home Rodriguez.

The Yellow Jackets are slated to visit Southwestern at 6 p.m. Tuesday in non-conference action, then are off until April 12-13 when they venture to ASC rival LeTourneau (16-11, 6-3) for three games.