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Early Bird

Roadrunners open Southland Conference Tournament with walk-off win

Courtesy: UTSA Athletics Communications
Release: 10/29/2009
Courtesy UTSA Athletics Communications
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Sophomore Tyler Carpenter's two-out single in the ninth plated junior Ryan Rummel with the game-winning run.
CORPUS CHRISTI Sophomore Tyler Carpenter's two-out liner to right brought home junior Ryan Rummel, capping a two-run ninth-inning rally, and No. 3 seed UTSA opened the 22nd annual Southland Conference Tournament with a 5-4 victory against sixth-seeded Northwestern State on Wednesday morning at Whataburger Field.

The Roadrunners (32-22), playing at the unusual early hour of 9 a.m., posted their third win in a row, all of which have come in their final at-bat, and came from behind for the 19th time this season.

Trailing 4-3 entering the final frame, sophomore Brett Aguilar started the game-winning rally with a double to left center off Demons closer Chad Sheppard. After junior Lance Brown moved Aguilar up to third with a sacrifice bunt, Rummel stroked a base hit through the drawn-in infield to tie the game at four. A passed ball by Garrett Vaughn allowed Rummel to move up to second and Sheppard then issued an intentional walk to freshman Casey Selsor. Two batters later, Carpenter followed with a liner to right and Rummel crossed the plate with the winning run without a throw from Beau Snodgrass.

"I was looking to go to the right side of the outfield to give Rummel a chance to get around third with the winning run," Carpenter said after his game-winning hit. "After he threw a fastball for a ball with the first pitch, I was pretty sure he was going to come at me with a fastball again and he did, this time on the outside, and I just took it the other way."

"It was an exciting end to an exciting game, but it was a lot closer than we would have liked," ninth-year head coach Sherman Corbett said. "We had a couple guys come through with some big hits late in the game, but we had a lot of opportunities early on that we didn't take advantage of. We kept battling after we fell behind late and this group has had a never-say-die attitude all year long. This was a very big win for us to start this week's tournament."

That gave sophomore left-hander Matt Crocker (6-1) his sixth relief win in the Birds' last 19 games. Crocker gave up a base hit and struck out one over the final 1.2 innings but not before allowing the go-ahead runs to score during Northwestern State's four-run eighth.

UTSA jumped out to an early 3-0 lead with a single run in the second and two more in the seventh.

Senior All-American Michael Rockett led off the second with his third triple of the year, which extended his hitting streak to career-high-tying 19 games, and he came home two batters later on Brown's ground out to second.

The Roadrunners then pushed across a pair of insurance runs five panels later when senior Jose Hernandez launched his 16th homer of the spring over the left-field wall, which plated senior Marshal Davis, who drew a walk to start the inning.

It looked as though that would be enough for junior starter Red Patterson, who had retired 12 hitters in a row entering the eighth.

However, Colin Bear drew a leadoff walk and Eric DeBlanc followed with a single through the left side of the infield. Patterson then got pinch hitter Jordan Nipp to line out to center, but pinch hitter Trevor Geist chopped a base hit through the left side to load the bases. Dan Meyer followed with a double down the left-field line to pull the Demons within one and chase Patterson from the contest. Crocker immediately struck out Snodgrass for the second out, but Chase Lyles cleared the bases with a two-RBI single to put Northwestern State in front, 4-3.

Patterson was strong despite giving up the Demons' four runs. The right-hander surrendered just five hits, walked two and struck out six in his 7.1 innings. It was the 11th time the Frisco native has gone at least six frames in 14 starts this spring and he pushed his season strikeout total to 86, which is the fourth-best total in school history.

Hernandez went 2-for-4 with his school-record-tying 25th double of the year in addition to his two-run homer and Brown also had a pair of safeties.

Sheppard (4-1) dropped his first decision of the year after allowing the two ninth-inning runs. He coughed up three hits in his 1.2 innings.

DeBlanc led the Demons offensively with two hits.

The Roadrunners will square off against No. 7 Sam Houston State (33-22) in a winners bracket contest at 4 p.m. on Thursday. UTSA swept the Beakats for the fourth year in a row from March 20-22 in Huntsville. Junior right-hander Ryan Proudfoot (2-1, 6.07 ERA) will oppose Sam Houston southpaw Brent Powers (3-2, 4.41).

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