Feb. 29, 2008
WACO, Texas - Things looked promising for the SFA baseball team on Friday after taking an early lead against Illinois-Chicago, but the Flames took advantage of four SFA errors and only allowed one run in the final eight innings to take a 9-3 win over the `Jacks in the opening game of the QTI Baylor Classic.
It was the lowest offensive output for SFA (3-3) so far this year, only managing three runs on five hits against the Flames' throwers. The `Jacks were averaging 8.2 runs per contest heading into Friday's game.
It was the first win of the season for the UIC (1-3), who has won the last six Horizon League titles and eliminated Long Beach State in the NCAA Regional last year before falling to UCLA in the regional finals. The Flames were swept in a three-game set last weekend at Tulane.
Lance Luetge needed just nine pitches to get through the first three batters of the UIC lineup in his second start of the season, while the bottom half of the inning saw SFA get on the board quickly. After Zach Gardner drew a leadoff walk, designated hitter Matt Whatley took a 2-1 pitch from Flames starter Grant Kohlstaedt over the right-field fence to give SFA an early 2-0 lead.
However, after a scoreless second inning UIC would start to get things going in its half of the third. Second baseman Andy Leonard got things started with a leadoff double into the left-center field gap. Luetge then got Jason Ganek and Steven McGuiggan to fly out harmlessly before Ty Rubio drove Leonard home from second with a single to left field to cut SFA's lead in half at 2-1.
The Flames would strike again in the top half of the fourth, using two Lumberjack errors to fuel their rally. The first came with one out as Ryan Meehan hit a chopper that went off the glove of first-baseman Adam Bosley, and only one batter later Chris Rutta would make SFA pay with a double into right-center field that pushed Meehan home all the way from first. Rutta would then advance to third on a throwing error by shortstop Jeff Brewer and eventually score the second run of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Jason Ganek, giving UIC its first lead of the game at 3-2.
Vince Wade came on in relief to begin the fifth inning and was promptly greeted by Jake Carr hammering a 3-1 pitch for a double off the center field fence to start things. Two batters later, and after reaching third on a throwing error on Wade, Carr jogged home when a wild pitch got under the glove of `Jacks catcher Kevin Croft to push the lead to 4-2.
The fifth inning saw the first to runners reach for UIC as Rutta singled on a ball deep in the hole to shortstop, and advanced to second when Wade unsuccessfully tried to force him out at on an attempted sacrifice from Leonard. Wade then balked the runners up a base before striking out Ganek and surrendering a sacrifice fly to leadoff man Steven McGuiggan that scored Rutta. Ty Rubio then smoked a one-hopper to shortstop that Jeff Brewer couldn't quite handle, driving in Leonard and giving the Flames a 6-2 cushion.
SFA finally drove Kohlstaedt from the game in the bottom of the sixth after Croft and Bosley started the inning off with back-to-back singles. Kevin Crabtree then hit a line drive that right at Flames third baseman Jake Carr that was scored an error and allowed Croft to score the `Jacks third run from second base; however, Flames reliever Don Phillis then retired the next three Lumberjacks to quell the rally and maintain UIC's three-run lead.
The Flames bumped the lead back to four at 7-3 in the eighth, without registering a single hit. After entering in relief Jonathan Gutierrez started off the inning by hitting Rutta. He eventually moved to second on a fielder's choice that left Kevin Coddington on first after Gabriel Garcia-Serrano missed the mark on the throw to first. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners up a base, and after McGuiggan walked, Gutierrez misfired and hit Rubio in the shoulder to bring Rutta across the plate for the third time in the game.
UIC would add two more runs in the top of the ninth off of `Jacks reliever Travis Harrelson, and then sat SFA down in order in the bottom half of the inning to close things out 9-3.
Luetge took the loss for the `Jacks, evening his record at 1-1, but lowering his ERA to 2.16 in two starts this season. Kohlstaedt picked up the win for UIC after tossing five-plus innings with three strikeouts.
SFA got one hit apiece from the 2-4 slots in the order, including a pinch-hit single from Jeffrey Kello, but the rest of the lineup was 0-for-19 against Flames' pitching.
The `Jacks will continue the QTI Baylor Classic on Saturday with a 2:00 p.m. game against Big 10 foe Illinois. The Illini knocked off SFA 11-6 in last year's tournament in the only meeting all-time between the schools. SFA will conclude the tournament on Sunday with a 3:00 p.m. matinee against the host, No. 13 Baylor.