By Troy Mitchell, Henderson State University Sports Information Director, hsusports.com
Editor’s note: The Henderson State University Reddies baseball team includes five players from Bryant, Hunter Mayall, Jordan Taylor, Hayden Daniel, Hayden Lessenberry and Landon Pickett. In addition, former Hornet Michael Haydon is an assistant coach.
CARY, N.C. — Henderson State’s greatest baseball season in school history came to an end Thursday as the Reddies lost to top-ranked Tampa 5-2 in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Baseball National Championships in Cary, N.C.
The Reddies, 33-21 on the year, began the season 113 days ago with the team exceeding all expectations.
“This team has been resilient having gone through so much all year,” said Head Coach Cody Hooten. “I couldn’t be any prouder of what this team has accomplished. I have never been around a greater bunch of young men. These guys will always have a special place in my heart. They have left a lasting legacy.”
The Reddies, playing their fourth game in the tournament fell behind 3-0 as Tampa scored solo runs in the first, third and fourth innings.
The Spartans took advantage of five walks given up by Reddie pitching in the first four frames.
Henderson State showed they belonged in Cary by storming back to score two runs in the sixth-inning as Hunter Mayall led off the inning with a single to centerfield.
With his single, Mayall finished the year with a 20-game hitting streak while having reached base in 37 consecutive contests.
Claude Johnson would then collect his second hit of the game as the senior from Pine Bluff, Ark. doubled off the left field wall to advance Mayall to third.
Hayden Lessenberry then singled to score Johnson to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Tampa, however, answered with two runs in the bottom of the frame without the use of a hit. Reddie pitchers issued three walks which accounted for the two runs.
Dylan Barrow would enter the game for the Spartans in the sixth-inning and retire 10 of 11 batters he faced with Tadarious Hawkins having the lone Reddie hit the final three innings.
Tampa threatened to extend its lead in the seventh when the Spartans loaded the bases with no outs.
Reliever Josh Henderson would enter the game for the Reddies and get Andrew Amaro to line into a double play followed by a fly out by Casey Scoggins to end the inning without the Spartans scoring a run.
Jay Hawley started for the Reddies on the mound and pitched three innings giving up three runs on six hits while walking four batters in suffering the loss.
The Henderson State defense was superb in the post season, especially in Cary. The Reddies went 37 innings without committing an error going back to the championship game of the NCAA Central Regional. The Reddies turned four double plays and had numerous web gems throughout the tournament.