In their final tune-up before this weekend series that could result in an American Southwest Conference baseball regular season championship, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets knocked off the Southwestern Pirates, 9-6, Tuesday afternoon in non-conference action at Don Shepard Park.
The Yellow Jackets (23-14, 14-4) — who host Hardin-Simmons (18-16, 12-7) for three ASC games Friday and Saturday with a percentage points lead over East Texas Baptist (27-10, 16-5) in the conference race — broke a 2-all tie against Southwestern with three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. HPU later out the game away with a four-run seventh.
Howard Payne collected eight hits, including two by Noah Payne who homered, tripled and drove in four runs. Cliff Lunceford doubled, singled and drove in two runs, while David Groves and Noah Coronado also contributed two singles apiece.
On the mound, Johnny Cravey, Ryan Richardson, Ben Schardt, Graham White, Ethan Cerna, Kyle Purdes, Kory Owen, Nick Diaz and Brendan Clanton combined to allowed six earned runs on six hits with nine strikeout and four walks. White was credited with the victory.
Down 2-0 after half an inning, the Yellow Jackets scored single runs in the first and second to drew even. Jacob Rodriguez’ RBI sacrifice fly plated Payne with the first run, while a bases-loaded walk by Rodriguez in the second drove in Kelton Crawford.
In HPU’s three-run fifth, Jacob Salazar walked, Groves singled to center and Coronado walked to load the bases with one out. Crawford was then hit by a pitch to plate Salazar with the go-ahead run, and Lunceford followed with a two-RBI double that scored Coronado and Groves.
Leading 5-3 in the seventh, Coronado singled with one out, then Crawford and Ty McCain walked in front of a two-out grand slam by Payne, which extended the advantage to 9-3.
The Yellow Jackets will face Hardin-Simmons at 2 p.m. Friday, then play a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday.