South Alabama baseball holds off Arkansas State 9-7 to complete sweep
South Alabama’s Sun Belt Conference Series Final against Arkansas State on Sunday had a bit of everything, including a positional player who pitches and throws well.
Sixth-year senior Hunter Stokes — normally the Jaguars’ starting first baseman — had the final four outs in South Alabama’s 9-7 win at Stanky Field. In his first career pitching appearance, the former Spanish Fort High School standout hit the save and helped the Jaguars complete a three-game sweep.
“He’s been on me for the last five or six years tossing him, and I kept telling him, ‘I hear you,'” South Alabama coach Mark Calvi said. “A few years ago we didn’t need him, but now we need him and good for him. He gave Christy, his mom, a happy Mother’s Day gift; I know that she’s excited. I couldn’t be happier. Hunter Stokes is one of my favorite players of all time. He’s probably the most beloved kid on the team and one of the best teammates. For the put in kid’s lingo, he’s a dog and he went over there and saved a ball game today.
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South Alabama (27-19, 13-11 Sun Belt) had 16 hits to build a two-run lead heading into the eighth, with Stokes leading in three of the runs on a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly. The Jaguars had fought their way through six pitchers in the first 7 2/3 innings when Calvi turned to Stokes with two outs and a man first.
The right-hander forced Daedrick Cail out to end the inning, then came back for the ninth after South Alabama failed to score late in the eighth. Stokes put the first two runners on a walk and a single, but got away with it by urging Jaylon Deshazier into a 5-4-3 double play, then retired Tristen Jamison on a break ball into the dirt for end the game.
“Every victory is huge, especially today; it was really tight and our guys kept fighting,” Calvi said. “We had our share of adversity on the mound with a few injuries and it kind of showed the lead today but we kept fighting and scored in every set but the last two and got a bunch of hits. I’m proud of our guys’ efforts all weekend.
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Arkansas State (10-32, 5-18) led 5-3 in the bottom of the fourth, but Southern Alabama tied the game on RBI singles by Landon Jordan and Stokes. The Jaguars took the lead for good in the fifth when receiver Carter Sanford homered two runs to make it 7-5.
Stokes made it 8-5 with another RBI single in the sixth, but Deshazier and Jamison delivered back-to-back hits in the seventh to make it a one-run game. Will Turner – who had homered earlier in the game – hit the final run of the game late in the inning to give the Jaguars a two-run cushion.
Miles Simington went 3-for-4 with three runs scored for South Alabama, while Jordan was 3-for-5 with an RBI. Turner, Stokes, Joseph Sullivan and Erick Orbeta each added two hits, while Turner and Sanford hit two each.
Walker Johnson (3-2), the fourth of seven South Alabama pitchers, took the victory in relief. He allowed two runs in 2 2/3 innings.
Reliever Brandon Anderson (1-6) took the loss for Arkansas State, giving up two runs in 1 1/3 innings. Jamison went 3-for-5 at the plate for the Red Wolves, while Cail drove in three and Deshazier hit in-two with a double and a home run.
Southern Alabama plays two midweek games, traveling to Tulane on Tuesday and hosting New Orleans on Wednesday. The Jaguars host ULM for their final Sun Belt home series starting Friday.