College Baseball: ’Cats handle Roadrunners

SAN ANTONIO — Texas State wrapped up its fifth series victory in the Western Athletic Conference with a pair of wins last weekend against UTSA.

After falling in the series opener last Friday night, the Bobcats bounced back to win last Saturday’s game in thrilling fashion (13-8) and then rolled to an easier win Sunday afternoon (12-3). Those wins also allowed Texas State to keep pace in the WAC standings, where it currently sits in a second-place tie.

Since both weekend games ended too late for our print edition, here are the stories from those tilts held at the Bird Bath.

Saturday’s game

Texas State and UTSA teamed up to put a classic in the IH-35 Rivalry storybooks, playing to 11 innings. On the arm of Hunter Lemke and his seven strikeouts through the final four innings, Texas State came out on top, 13-8, to improve to 12-8 in the Western Athletic Conference.

Through five-and-a-half innings, the Bobcats had a 5-3 lead, but UTSA tied it up with two runs. Then both teams scored three runs apiece in the eighth and went scoreless in the ninth to force extra innings until Texas State exploded for five 11th inning runs for the win.

Lemke entered the game in the eighth inning and started mowing the Roadrunners down. Once he settled in, the closer struck out five consecutive batters and retired 10 consecutive batters faced, seven by strikeout. He didn’t give up a hit to give his offense a chance to win it.

In the 11th, the Bobcat lineup stepped up big. Kevin Sah led the inning with a walk and Mattlage sacrifice bunted him to second. Then the Roadrunners chose to intentionally walk Cody Lovejoy, hoping for a double play ball from Andrew Stumph. He didn’t cooperate.

Stumph knocked a deep single off the left center wall to score Sah from second and push Lovejoy to third. After that, with an open base, UTSA chose to intentionally walk Ben McElroy to load the bases yet again. This time, Smelser came through with a single to shallow right field to score another Bobcat. Mickan grounded out next, but another TXST run scored. Then, already leading 11-8, Targun poked a single through the right side to score two more runs and push the lead to 13-8.

To start the bottom of the 11th, Sah had to make a jumping catch at the wall for the first out. That was all the Texas State defense had to do as Lemke did the rest. He struck out the last two batters to pick up his first win of the season.

The story of the game took place in the extra innings, but there was great baseball to get the teams to the ninth tied. Morgan Mickan and Nick Smelser both hit their second home runs of their careers. Four Bobcats finished with multiple hits while three Roadrunners achieved the feat.

Sunday’s game

Texas State carried the momentum from the end of last Saturday’s great win into Sunday, knocking 17 hits and scoring 12 runs to put UTSA away in the series finale, 12-3. All but one Texas State batter in Sunday’s lineup tallied at least one hit while Mattlage, Pearson and Sah finished with three hits apiece and Austin O’Neal knocked in four runs.

Mitchell Pitts matched his season long outing with six innings pitched. He gave up three runs and eight hits, but never let the Roadrunners get anything going as he picked up the win to move to 3-3 on the season.

Kyle Finnegan mopped up the final three innings for his first save of the season, only allowing two hits and striking out one.

Texas State only tallied two hits and put four base runners on in the first five innings, but the Bobcats exploded for the final four, knocking 15 hits and scoring all 12 runs with two in the sixth, four in the seventh and six in the eighth.

By the start of the seventh inning, the game was tied at 2-all. That’s when Texas State went to work.

Targun started everything as he entered to pinch hit with one out. He legged out an infield single for the second day in a row and Pearson followed with a single to shallow right field. Sah also singled to load the bases and Mattlage picked up the go ahead RBI on a hit by pitch.

With bases still loaded, Lovejoy sent one to the third baseman that was ruled an error, but scored two runs for the Bobcats. O’Neal followed with a single straight up the middle to score Mattlage again and push the lead to 6-2.

In the bottom of the seventh, UTSA closed the gap just a bit with one run, but Finnegan, in relief, made short work of the last three batters of the inning. He forced two groundouts and caught the last batter looking to move the game to the eighth.

Texas State sought for more insurance in the ninth inning. Mattlage and Lovejoy started the inning with consecutive singles and Stumph sacrifice bunted them over to second and third. With both runners in scoring position, O’Neal tallied his third and fourth RBI of the day with another hit up the middle to push the lead to 8-3.

Nick Smelser followed O’Neal’s hit with another single up the middle, and Morgan Mickan sent one through the left side to load the bases. Targun reached on a fielder’s choice next and Mickan was out on the play, but the UTSA first baseman tried to catch Smelser at third. He threw the ball out of play to allow Smelser to score.

Pearson, Sah and Mattlage followed with consecutive singles to push the score to 12-3 before the Roadrunners could end the top of the ninth. UTSA tallied two hits in the bottom of the ninth, but that was all the Bobcats gave up as Finnegan forced three groundouts to end the game.