MARSHALL — The defending American Southwest Conference regular season baseball champion Howard Payne Yellow Jackets took two of three games from East Texas Baptist over the weekend to win their first series in league play.
Howard Payne tallied a 4-2 victory Friday night, dropped a 9-3 decision in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader, then rebounded for an 8-4 triumph in the finale.
In the Yellow Jackets' opening win, Howard Payne (5-6, 2-1) trailed 1-0 after one inning. HPU responded by recording all four of its runs in the top of the second, while ETBU (1-8, 1-2) mustered just one more run in the bottom of the sixth.
The Yellow Jackets finished with six hits — three by first baseman R.J. Roberts, two from shortstop Joey Villarreal, who drove in a run, and one by catcher Rylee McGee. Third baseman Cade Varrichio added two RBI despite not tallying a hit.
On the mound, Xavier Haines worked seven innings and allowed one earned run on five hits with four strikeouts and one walk to notch the win. Brownwood's Kory Owen picked up the save, striking out the side in the ninth inning.
HPU's four-run second featured a single from Roberts, a walk by McGee and second baseman David Paleo was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. With one down, Varrichio reached on a fielder's choice combined with an error, allowing Roberts and McGee to score. Paleo later came home on a wild pitch, while Villarreal's RBI infield single brought home Varrichio.
In the series finale, Howard Payne doubled up East Texas Baptist.
Trailing 2-1 after three innings, the Yellow Jackets took control with a three-run top of the fourth. Leading 4-2, HPU tacked on three additional runs in the sixth and one more in the seventh, while yielding just one more run in the bottom of the ninth.
The Yellow Jackets collected 13 hits — two each by Villarreal, Noah Coronado, Jonathan McKay, Seth Stephens, and Carson Wert, and one each by Varrichio, Roberts, and Nolyn Box. Roberts homered and drove in three, while Coronado finished with two RBI and Villarreal, Box and Wert added one RBI apiece.
Kyle Purdes picked up the win on the mound, giving up two earned runs on six hits with six strikeouts and no walks over eight innings. Landin Blass worked the ninth and yielded one run with one walk.
HPU's three-run fourth featured a leadoff home run from Box, a double by Stephens, an RBI triple from Wert and an RBI fielder's choice by Coronado.
In the three-run sixth, Coronado walked and McKay doubled ahead of Roberts' blast.
In the seventh inning, Paleo walked to start the frame and later scored on an RBI single by Villarreal.
The Yellow Jackets' first run in the top of the first was the result of a Villarreal leadoff double followed by Coronado's RBI single up the middle.
In HPU's only loss of the weekend, the Yellow Jackets surrendered all nine ETBU runs in the bottom of the sixth inning after opening a 1-0 advantage in the top of the fourth.
Jeremy Dodson, Bryant Chambers and Johnny Cravey combined to surrender six earned runs on three hits with eight strikeouts, three walks, two hit batters and a pair of wild pitches. The Yellow Jacket defense also committed two errors.
The Yellow Jackets tallied just five hits — one each by Villarreal, Roberts, Coronado, Wert and Wylan Kolts.
HPU took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Roberts belted a solo home run.
Trailing by eight runs in the top of the seventh, the Yellow Jackets tacked on two more runs on a two-run pinch-hit home run by Kolts.
Howard Payne is back in action Friday and Saturday when it hosts LeTourneau (5-4, 2-1) for a three-game ASC series. Game 1 is at 1 p.m. Friday with Games 2 and 3 to follow Saturday, beginning at noon.