JONESBORO, Ark. (5-13-2007) – In his final home game at Arkansas State, senior Josh Yates earned his All-American and All-Sun Belt Conference accolades. With ASU trailing Louisiana-Monroe 13-12 in the eighth, Yates came to the plate with two outs on the board and the bases loaded, and smashed an 0-2 pitch over the left field wall to give the Indians a 16-13 lead, and ASU went on to defeat the Warhawks 17-13 to clinch a Sun Belt Conference series Sunday afternoon at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field.
“At 0-2, I was just trying to give myself a chance, just trying to hit a ball hard and maybe dump one in,” said Yates. “I really wasn’t sitting fastball, that’s probably the reason why I hit it – because I wasn’t geared up for it. I just stayed loose and I think he (ULM pitcher Bucky Chandler) just missed his spot with the fastball and left it over the plate, and I just put a good swing on it.”
Seniors Tyler Doke and Tim Egart helped seal the deal in the final two innings as Doke followed Yates’ shot with a solo home run, and Egart went to the mound in the ninth and allowed just one baserunner to close out the win, keeping the Indians’ post-season hopes alive. With three games remaining, ASU is in tenth place in the Sun Belt Conference standings, just one-half game behind South Alabama, and one game behind Florida International in the fight down the stretch to make it to the eight-team conference tournament beginning May 23 in Mobile, Ala.
“I couldn’t imagine going out any better,” added Yates. “With Doke coming in and hitting a home run and Tim closing the door, it is just awesome to see the seniors really thrive this weekend.”
The Warhawks grabbed the early momentum, taking a 3-0 lead through the first two innings, but ASU roared back in the third to plate eight runs, its highest single-inning run total of the season. Doke drove in ASU’s first run of the game with a double to left field and catcher Drew Rogers drove in two more on a base hit before left fielder A.J. Prickel and shortstop Ryan Hudgins punctuated the inning with a pair of home runs. Prickel delivered a two-run shot to put the Indians on top 5-3, and Hudgins sent a pitch over the left-center wall for three more runs, closing the inning with an 8-3 Indian lead.
Louisiana-Monroe trimmed the ASU lead to 8-5 with a pair of runs in the fourth, getting the first run on an RBI single from shortstop Ben Soignier and the second run on a bases-loaded wild pitch.
Arkansas State matched the Warhawks’ fourth-inning effort with a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame when Prickel delivered an RBI single, then scored on a ULM error to stretch the Indian lead to 10-5.
The Warhawks countered with eight straight runs to reclaim the lead at 13-10. A five-run fifth inning highlighted by a three-run home run from pinch hitter A.J. Siggers tied the game at 10-10, and ULM went back on top with three in the seventh. Catcher Josh Morrison hit a two-run double, and Soignier hit a two run home run to put the Warhawks back on top, 13-10.
“When we went up 8-3 and then 10-5, I didn’t think we were through scoring, but I didn’t know they would come back and get the lead as quickly as they did,” said ASU head coach Keith Kessinger. “It was a long day, it was an up-and-down day, but it was obviously one with a tremendous ending.”
ASU managed to get a run back in the bottom of the seventh when Yates was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, and ULM reliever David Mixon ran out of steam in the eighth, hitting two batters and walking two to plate another run for the Indians and chip the Warhawk lead down to a single run at 13-12. Chandler went to the mound for Louisiana-Monroe and recorded the second out of the inning when he struck out ASU shortstop Ryan Hudgins, but Yates came to the plate with the bases full and sent the 0-2 pitch out of the park for the 16-13 Indian lead.
“If it’s in a movie, you wouldn’t believe it,” said Kessinger. “With the bases loaded and two strikes, your All-American who is having a tough year, in his last at-bat, hits a home run. Then your only other senior playing hits a homer, and the only senior we had left to pitch closed the ninth inning.”
In addition to the Yates grand slam and five RBI, the Indians also got two hits and three RBI from Prickel and Hudgins, two hits and two RBI from Doke and Rogers, and a pair of hits from first baseman Brandon Eller.
Pete Pasternak (1-3) pitched 1.1 innings to earn his first win of the season for the Indians, while Mixon (5-1) suffered his first loss of the season for the Warhawks despite not giving up a hit in four innings of work.
Soignier led ULM at the plate with a 4-for-5 day with five runs batted in.
The Indians will be back in action Thursday when they travel to Little Rock to face the Trojans of UALR in the final Sun Belt Conference series of the season. Thursday and Friday’s games are set to get underway at 6 p.m., while Sunday’s season finale is set for 2 p.m.