The reigning American Southwest Conference baseball regular season champion Howard Payne Yellow Jackets earned their second consecutive league series victory, taking two of three games from LeTourneau Friday and Saturday at Don Shepard Park.
Howard Payne chalked up a 6-4 win Friday, LeTourneau answered with a 1-0 triumph in the first game of Saturday doubleheader, and the Yellow Jackets held on for a 16-14 win in a slugfest to claim the series.
In the series opening 6-4 victory Friday, the Yellow Jackets (7-7, 4-2) tallied three runs in each of the first two innings. LeTourneau (6-6, 3-3) pushed across its first run in the top of the third and added three more in the sixth.
The Yellow Jackets generated eight hits — two by Joey Villarreal and one apiece by Noah Coronado, Jonathan McKay, Rylee McGee, Nolan Box and R.J. Roberts.
Roberts' hit was a three-run home run over the left field wall in the bottom of the first inning that plated Coronado, who singled with one out, and McKay, who followed with a double to right field.
In the second inning, Paleo led off with a single and Carson Wert drew a one-out walk. Villarreal then doubled down the right field line to drive in Paleo, Coronado followed with an RBI ground out that knocked in Wert, and Villarreal later scored on a wild pitch.
On the mound, Xavier Haynes improved to 3-0 as he worked seven innings and allowed four runs — three earned — on nine hits with five strikeouts, one walk and one hit batter. Bryant Chambers worked a perfect eight inning with one strikeout and Brownwood's Kory Owen came on in the ninth to pick up the save.
HPU's best offensive outing of the season came in the series finale, and was needed, as the Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first inning and led by as many as 11 runs.
The Yellow Jackets' seven-run first inning began with a leadoff triple to left-center field by Villarreal, followed by an RBI single to right field by Coronado. McKay then followed with a base hit and Roberts walked ahead of a two-RBI single to left field by McGee. With one out, Paleo's RBI single plated Roberts for a 4-0 lead. Cade Varrichio then singled before McGee came home on a balk. West drew a walk then, with two outs, Coronado lashed a two-RBI single to left-center field as Varrichio and Paleo crossed the plate with the sixth and seventh runs.
HPU scored in the second when Paleo's RBI double to left field plated Box, who singled with two outs.
The Yellow Jackets led 12-3 after three inning as Roberts and Varrichio both picked up an RBI on bases-loaded walks, and McGee contributed a two-RBI single.
The advantage stood at 14-4 after four complete thanks to a two-run blast by Roberts.
Through five innings, Howard Payne led 16-5 as David Berzins contributed a two-run home run to center field.
LeTourneau responded with nine consecutive runs — three in the sixth inning and sixth in the seventh — to close the gap to two runs, as the Yellow Jackets were also plagued by five errors.
On the mound, Kyle Purdes tallied the win as he allowed five runs — three earned — on eight hits with four strikeouts and three walks over five innings. Relief pitchers Johnny Cravey, Ty Garner, and Seth Brody gave up a combined nine runs on eight hits, three walks and two strikeouts in just two innings. Chambers again worked a perfect eighth inning with one strikeout, and Owen came on in the ninth to collect the save, notching two strikeouts with one walk.
At game's end, HPU had recorded 18 hits — four by Villarreal, three each by Paleo and McGee, two apiece by Coronado and Roberts, and one by McKay, Box and Berzins. McGee's four RBI were a team-high trailed by three each from Coronado and Roberts, two apiece by Paleo and Berzins, and one by Varrichio.
Howard Payne dropped a 1-0 decision in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader, with LeTourneau pitcher Kolton Eberlan tossing a three-hit shutout with six strikeouts and no walks.
LeTourneau scored the only run in the top of the fifth inning as Cody Lee's two-out RBI infield single up the middle scored Will Bradshaw, who reached on a fielder's choice, from second base.
Jeramy Dodson stared on the mound for HPU and worked 4.2 innings, allowing one run on five hits with eight strikeouts and four walks. Landin Blass and Chambers tossed the final 2.1 innings as each pitcher surrendered one hit and recorded two strikeouts.
Picking up hits for the Yellow Jackets were Villarreal, Wert and Varrichio — all singles.
The Yellow Jackets are back in action Friday and Saturday with a three-game ASC set at UT-Dallas (8-4, 5-1).