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. — Jordan Taylor hit a two-run home run and pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings to lead No. 15 Henderson State to a 4-1 win over No. 10 Angelo State, Wednesday at the NCAA Division II National Baseball Championships in Cary, N.C.
The Reddies, 33-20 on the season, will advance to play the University of Tampa on Thursday at 2 p.m. The Spartans are unbeaten and Henderson would have to beat Tampa Thursday and Friday to advance to championship Saturday.
Things began slowly for the Reddies and in the early stages it looked as if there would be a repeat of Monday’s loss to Catawba.
Angelo State, 42-18, struck for a run in the first-inning as David Goggin led off the inning with a single and would score on a J.C. Snyder triple to right-center field to make the score 1-0.
The Reddies would get a leadoff double in the second-inning by Lance Fields, but the senior from Paris, Texas would be stranded at third.
In the Henderson third, Hunter Mayall extended his hitting streak to 19 games with a one-out single up the middle. With two-outs, Taylor took a Matt Shannon 3-1 pitch over the right-field wall to give Henderson a 2-1 lead.
“The count was in my favor and I was just looking for a pitch to drive,” said Taylor. “It really got the team going as it seemed to be more life in the dugout.”
Henderson State missed a big opportunity to put a bunch of runs on the board in the fourth as the Reddies loaded the bases with no outs. However, relief pitcher Graylon Brown recorded a strike out and got a double-play ball to get out of the inning.
In the fifth-inning, Claude Johnson would start things for the Reddies with a single to left field.
Again Henderson State struck with two-outs as Fields belted his second double of the game to score Johnson. Tadarious Hawkins followed suit with his second double of the afternoon, trading places with Fields to make the score 4-1.
Brown would shut down the Reddies the remainder of the game as he retired 13 straight Henderson hitters.
Meanwhile, Angelo State kept applying pressure on the Reddie pitchers.
Reddie starter Cody Jones did a solid job through 4 1/3 innings but was having difficulties with the heat.
Taylor would enter the game and pitch 2 2/3 innings retiring eight of the nine batters he faced.
First-Team ABCA All-American relief pitcher Nick Vanthillo would enter the game in the eighth-inning.
The right-hander struggled through the inning as Angelo State loaded the bases on three walks with one out.
Vanthillo then got Cameron Massengill to hit a ground ball to Johnson who stepped on the bag at third and fired to first for the inning-ending double-play.
Again Vanthillo would get into some trouble in the ninth-inning. After striking out Brett David to lead off the frame, Cody Semler walked and Elias Aguirre would reach on a bunt single.
The product of Brasschatt, Belgium would then get Goggin to look at a third strike for the second out.
The Henderson defense would provide the final out as Sam Kohler hit a line drive to second baseman AJ Kruzel to end the game.
“Nick had his worst outing of the year, but we still managed to get out of it,” said HSU Coach Cody Hooten. “The defense played well behind him and you have to be able to rely on them to come up with the big play.”
Taylor would get credited with the win and improve to 3-2 on the year, while Vanthillo would pick up save number 14.
The Reddie defense was superb once again as Fields and Conner Brackhahn made some sliding catches in the outfield while Carlos Rodriguez made an ESPN Top 10 nominee play at short in the seventh-inning.
The Henderson State flag is one of only four flags still flying in Cary as four teams have been eliminated. The season began with 260 teams playing NCAA Division II Baseball.
“Again we pitched extremely well and got the hits in timely fashion,” said Hooten. “We live to fight another day.”
Thursday’s game will be aired on ESPN 106.9 FM in Arkadelphia. Fans can also listen via the internet at www.hsusports.com.
In addition, all games will be live video streamed courtesy of the NCAA.
Links to the NCAA Webcast along with the audio link and live stats link is also located on the HSU athletic web site.
Those fans in Arkadelphia are invited to attend a watch party at Slim and Shorty’s in downtown Arkadelphia.