HBU edges UNO in 12-innings to force rematch for spot in Southland title game

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(Photo: Erik Williams/Southland Conference)

SUGAR LAND, Texas – In a semifinal matchup that lasted well into the early morning hours, No. 4 Houston Baptist survived a 12-inning endurance test with No. 8 New Orleans, earning a 4-3 win just before 2 a.m. CT.

The Huskies force the “if-necessary” rematch with the Privateers on Saturday at 1 p.m., the winner earning a spot in the winner-take-all title game against No. 3 Northwestern State at 6 p.m.

Both pitchers had the better of the opening three innings, with Brayson Smith striking out four on 61 pitches for New Orleans and Taylor Franzman striking out a pair and allowing just one hit to keep the game scoreless.

Atop the fourth inning, New Orleans loaded the bases on a walk with one out and Devin Morrill up to bat. Franzman tossed two straight balls before being replaced by right-hander Weston Smart. Morrill then put a sac fly into left field to score Beau Bratton and give UNO a 1-0 lead.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Huskies landed themselves in the same position, with the bases loaded and one out, but the leadoff hitter in Tyler Depreta-Johnson up to bat. His fly out to shallow right field kept the runners stranded and put Jonathon Ducoff at the plate with two outs. Reaching a full count and drawing a walk, the tying run came home before Spencer Halloran came to bat. Again, a full count was on the board, but this time Smith registered a strike out to keep the game tied at one run apiece.

Rapidly reaching his pitch limit – throwing 95 in just four innings of work – Smith made way for right-hander Rafael Martinez.

HBU took the lead at the bottom of the fifth on a fielding error from center field, allowing Matt Heck to come home. Jake Scott then shot an RBI single through the same spot to bring home the third run for the Huskies and a 3-1 lead. After facing five batters and recording just one out, Martinez was taken off the mound for lefty Matthew Gillis.

Depreta-Johnson was up to bat again with the bases loaded at the bottom of the fifth with one out. With a 2-2 count, UNO escaped with the score still at 3-1 after turning a double play on a ground out to second base. Gillis escaped again to the final three innings, but an empty-handed top of the seventh slimmed down UNO’s chances for a comeback.

However, the Privateers made it a new ballgame at the top of the eighth after a two-run blast from Orynn Veillon went over the left field wall to send him and Pearce Howard home to tie the game 3-3 with no outs.

The Huskies managed to retire though, and they would come up to bat with a tie score. After a botched bunt foul out, fly out to right field and a strikeout, the ninth inning would commence with the two sides still deadlocked.

Two ground outs and a strikeout saw UNO retired with Sam Houston up for a shot at the win at the bottom of the ninth. Another pitching change took place as John Barr took the mound for New Orleans and Jake Pulcheon up to bat. A leadoff walk put the winning run on first followed by a wild pitch which advanced his pinch runner to second. Barr managed to strike out the next to batters swinging but another wild pitch sent the winning run to third with two outs. Facing a full count, Jeremy Simon sent a fly out to shallow center field to send the game to extra innings.

Depreta-Johnson got on first base with a single to right center after a lengthy at-bat with one out and a wild pitch on Ducoff’s sent him to second. Ducoff then lined out to deep center field to put two outs on the board in the bottom of the 10th. Halloran struck out swinging to send the game to the 11th.

The Huskies loaded the bases with of the 12th with no outs, and after Jake Scott appeared to make it home on a sac bunt, he was called out. After some choice words exchanged with the home plate umpire, Scott was ejected as the ball game remained tied with two outs. On the next at-bat, however, Halloran was hit by the pitch to bring the walkoff run home to secure the 4-3 victory.

The two sides combined for 420 pitches on the night – UNO registered 256 with seven different pitchers while HBU had 164 with three.

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