Jackets look to wrap up regular season at home against Hardin-Simmons next weekend

TYLER — Howard Payne salvaged the finale of its three-game baseball series against defending national champion UT-Tyler, but the Yellow Jackets' lead in the American Southwest Conference championship has been further diminished.

With UT-Tyler moving up to the Division II ranks, the weekend's games did not count toward the ASC standings. Howard Payne dropped the first two contests 15-4 and 2-0 before tallying a 9-6 victory to close the weekend.

The Yellow Jackets (22-14, 14-4) hold a percentage points edge over East Texas Baptist (27-10, 16-5), while Concordia (27-9, 13-5) has moved within a game of the top spot and Louisiana College (27-9, 14-7) is just 1.5 games back.

Howard Payne will attempt to wrap up the ASC regular season title when it hosts Hardin-Simmons (18-16, 12-7) in the final three games of the regular season Friday and Saturday at Don Shepherd Park. Game 1 will take place at 2 p.m. Friday with a doubleheader to follow at 1 p.m. Saturday.

In the Yellow Jackets' win over UT-Tyler, HPU jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the third inning, but the Patriots trimmed the deficit to 6-5 in the sixth. Howard Payne tacked on two more runs in the seventh and one in the ninth, while allowing just one more run the rest of the way for UT-Tyler.

The Yellow Jackets finished with a dozen hits including three from TyCain, who homered and drove in five runs, and two from R.J. Roberts, who also homered and knocked in a pair. Jacob Rodriguez matched McCain with three hits while Noah Payne equaled Roberts with two, and Jacob Salazar and Cade Varrichio contributed one hit each.

On the mound, Kyle Purdes picked up the win in relief, tossing one inning and allowing one run on three hits. Brenden Clanton collected the save, working one inning and notching one strikeout. Preston Newman got the start and tossed 4.2 innings, yielding two earned runs on eight hits with one strikeout and three walks.

Tied at 1 in the top of the third, Varrichio led off with a single, Lunceford walked and Rodriguez reached on a one-out infield single to fill the sacks. McCain then launched a grand slam to left field, staking HPU to a 5-1 lead.

Clinging to a 6-5 advantage in the seventh, McCain was hit by a pitch with two outs and Roberts followed with a two-run blast to left center.

HPU's final run in the ninth came on a two-out RBI double by Salazar that scored Payne, who led off the frame with a single.

The Yellow Jackets' first run, in the first inning, scored when McCain hit into a double play, but Payne, who started the game with a base hit, came home from third.

HPU began the series with a 15-4 loss Friday night. After scoring the first run of the contest, the Yellow Jackets yielded seven in a row before striking for the final three runs in the seventh.

Chandler Clark was tagged with the loss, giving up five earned runs on seven hits with two walks and a pair of strikeouts in four innings of action.

Offensively for the Yellow Jackets, Joshua Gerig tallied two hits while Roberts, Rodriguez and Lunceford added one apiece. Lunceford drove in two runs while Roberts and Rodriguez chipped in an RBI each.

In Saturday's first game of a doubleheader, the Yellow Jackets were blanked 2-0 as UT-Tyler scored twice in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Howard Payne was limited to four hits — one each by Payne, Salazar, Lunceford and Noah Coranodo.

On the mound, Bryson Liro pitched 5.2 innings and gave up two runs on five hits with one strikeout and two walks. Xavier Haines recorded the final out.

Next on the schedule for the Yellow Jackets is a 2 p.m. Tuesday non-conference home outing against Southwestern.