Yellow Jackets split doubleheader with Hardin-Simmons to remain tied with Cowboys

Howard Payne’s Jacob Spivey delivers a pitch as Hardin-Simmons’ Colson Craddick leads off third base during Saturday’s first game of an ASC doubleheader at Don Shepard Park.

Matthew Parks tossed a three-hitter as the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets salvaged the finale of their three-game series with Hardin-Simmons, 6-1, to remain tied with the Cowboys in the thick of the American Southwest Conference postseason hunt.

Howard Payne (9-11, 6-9) and Hardin-Simmons (9-10, 6-9) are tied with UT-Tyler (8-14, 6-9) for seventh place in the ASC standings with six series remaining for each team, as the top eight teams advance to the postseason tournament.

After falling 17-10 in Friday’s opener and dropping a 9-3 decision in the first game Saturday at Don Shepard Park, HPU’s freshman hurler Parks struck out six, walked three and did not surrender a hit after the fourth inning.

Two of Hardin-Simmons’ hits occurred in the top of the first inning, where the Cowboys tallied their lone run.

Jason Vause led off the game with a base hit up the middle, then crossed the plate when Brandon Walker delivered a two-out RBI infield single. Zack de Luna’s two-out double in the fourth was the final hit given up by Parks.

The Yellow Jackets, meanwhile, racked up 10 hits and drew five walks off the Hardin-Simmons pitching combination of Kyle Barnett, Jeremy Hallmark, Matt Rhodes and Blake Northrop.

Jake Sadler doubled, tripled and recorded three RBIs to pace the Howard Payne offense, while Colton Brown and Joshua Martinez added two hits apiece from the top of the order. Matthew Daniel and Kyle Kulczyk notched one hit and one RBI apiece, while Martinez also earned an RBI. Dustin DeJohn and John Elmore also contributed hits for the Yellow Jackets.

HPU opened a 2-1 advantage in the bottom of the first inning as Brown and Martinez singled, then Daniel drove in Brown with an RBI single to left field and Kulczyk followed with an RBI ground out that plated Martinez.

The Yellow Jackets stretched their lead to 5-1 during the third inning as Martinez led off with a single, Kulczyk added a one-out base hit and DeJohn followed with a single up the middle. With the sacks full and two outs, Sadler laced a three-RBI triple down the right field line.

Howard Payne tacked on its final run in the sixth as Elmore led off with a single and scored on an RBI ground out by Martinez.

In Saturday’s 9-3 opening loss, Howard Payne grabbed a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the first inning after Colson Craddick and Walker drove in a pair of runs for Hardin-Simmons off HPU starter Jacob Spivey in the top half of the frame.

Brown led off the bottom of the first with a double down the left field line, then Kulczyk drew a two-out walk to extend the inning. Will Roberts followed with a free pass to load the bases ahead of a two-RBI single through the left side by DeJohn, which scored Brown and Kulczyk. Connor Roberts then plated Will Roberts with an RBI single up the middle.

Hardin-Simmons regained a 4-3 lead in the top of the fourth inning on an RBI sacrifice fly by de Luna and an RBI single by Will Wise, then the Cowboys tacked on four insurance runs in the top of the fifth inning on a pair of two-RBI singles by Walker and Wise.

The Cowboys tacked on a final run in the seventh as Vause reached on a two-out error, the second of the game for HPU, which scored de Luna.

The Yellow Jackets finished with six hits — two by DeJohn and one each by Connor Roberts, Joshua Martinez, Cody Cain and Brown.

HPU hurlers Spivey, Ethan Ferrel, Garrett Virgin and Jaime Boyd combined to surrender 10 hits with five walks and six strikeouts.

The Yellow Jackets will venture to East Texas Baptist Friday and Saturday for another three-game American Southwest Conference series.