Clarksville, Ark.--The Ozarks-Arkansas Tech baseball series picked up intensity last night when the Eagles held off a Tech ninth inning rally to win 5-4 in Russellville.
Ozarks (17-12) got on the board early when Caleb Hilton led off the game with a scorched double to left field. He then advanced to third on a pass ball and scored on Brian Heckmann’s single up the middle. Ozarks struck again in the second when Justin Brown, who reached on a fielder’s choice, scored on a Tyler Gideon single. Ozarks’ starting pitcher Todd Koch, a freshman from San Antonio, held the Wonder Boys (20-15) bats in check until the fourth when Bradley Stewart belted a solo home run over the left field fence. Ozarks would strike again in the sixth when Heckmann led off the inning with an infield hit and advanced to second on a throwing error. Brett Hays then slapped a single to right to drive in Heckmann. Koch, who was making only his second collegiate pitching appearance, would hold down the Tech offense until the eighth when Aaron Hopkins hit their second solo home run of the game. The Wonder Boys, who are currently tied for first in the Gulf South Conference West division, made the score 3-2 following the homer. After walking Tech’s Heath Roseberry in the very next at-bat, Koch was lifted and moved to third base in favor of Heckmann on the mound. Heckmann retired his first hitter on a sacrifice bunt which moved Roseberry to second. Stewart then hit a sharp single up the middle scoring Roseberry. Stewart advanced all the way to third when outfielder Justin Brown over ran the ground ball for only his first error of the season. The Eagles then intentionally walked Ryan White to put runners on first and third. Heckmann was able to strand Stewart at third base to end the Tech rally. In the top half of the ninth with lightening in the distance, Ozarks was able to put two crucial runs across the plate to make the score 5-3. Brown led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a Kyle Hudson sacrifice bunt. Senior Chris Harrell then walked to put runners at first and second. On the very next pitch, Gideon promptly hit a shot to right field off of Wonder Boys closer Drew Buford scoring Brown and moving Harrell to third. With Heckmann at the plate, Gideon took off for second base. On the throw from Tech catcher Kevin Coleman, Harrell stole home to plate Ozarks’ fifth run of the game. The Wonder Boys, however, wouldn’t go down quietly in the bottom of the ninth. After a lead off walk by Brad Green, Heckmann retired the next two hitters on fly balls to center field. Tech then strung together three straight singles, one of which scored Green, making the score 5-4. With the bases loaded and two outs, Chris Jackson skied a pop up to Gideon at shortstop for the final out of the game. Heckmann picked up the win running his record to 5-3. Koch, who pitched seven plus solid innings, received a no-decision, his second in as many outings. Over his seven innings, he scattered nine hits, allowing three earned runs and striking out three. Tech’s John Iverson picked up the loss dropping his record to 1-1. When the AIC folded in the mid-90’s and Tech joined the NCAA II GSC and Ozarks joined the NCAA III ASC, the series has been a one sided affair with Tech winning 18 in a row. So with Tech winning the contests for eight years in a row, it is hard to call this series a rivalry. However, given the close proximity to one another and the series dating back to 1912, the series between ATU and Ozarks still has deep meaning for the players and coaches involved. Ozarks faces University of Texas-Tyler this weekend in a crucial American Southwest Conference match-up. The first pitch Friday is scheduled for 2:00 at Lonnie R. Qualls Field. The series concludes Saturday with a double-header scheduled for 12:00.