Baseball, College

Texans come back to top West Texas A&M, reach LSC baseball finals

Tarleton catcher Jonathan Schmitz slides into home with the winning run Friday. He also had a 2-run home run in the 7-6 Tarleton win over West Texas A&M at Nolan Ryan Field in Kingsville. (Tarleton Athletics Photo)

KINGSVILLE (TheFlashToday) — Tarleton State scored twice in the seventh and twice more in the ninth to come from behind and top West Texas A&M 7-6 in the championship play-in round of the Lone Star Conference Baseball Championship in Kingsville Friday night.

West Texas A&M scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh for a 6-3 lead, then turned the mound over to first-team all-conference closer Paul Lujan.

The outlook was bleak for the Texans in the elimination game. Each team already had one loss in the four-team double-elimination tournament at Nolan Ryan Field, and Tarleton appeared to have just six outs of life left in its season.

But Jonathan Schmitz unloaded a two-out, two-run home run in the top of the eighth – the first home run surrendered in 31 innings this season by Lujan – to cut it to 6-5. In the ninth, Landon Merka doubled, Matt Olive tripled and McMahon singled to plate Olive for the winning run.

The Texans advance to face Angelo State in the final matchup, starting at noon Saturday. Because the Rams defeated Tarleton 8-0 earlier Friday and ASU does not have a loss in the tournament, the Texans must win twice to repeat as champs. The winner of the LSC tourney receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Division II South Central Region Championship.

West Texas A&M (36-17) now awaits an at-large bid to the regional after losing to Tarleton (21-25) for just the second time in eight meetings this season.

Hunter Houston is used to save opportunities as a Texan, but a prolonged 2-2/3 innings gave the closer his first win of the season. He got Tarleton out of the seventh and shut down the Buffs

With one on and one out, Buffalo cleanup batter Josh Day lined a shot right into the glove of second baseman Landon Merka, who then flipped the ball to first baseman Elijah Christenson before the runner could get back to the bag for a game-ending double play.

Tarleton amassed 18 hits, matching its season high. Ten hitters had hits, including five – Evan Robinson, Zach Fleet, Kevin Meredith, Dalton Weeks and Christenson – with two each.

An RBI double by Robinson in the third and a two-run home run by Merka in the fourth made it 3-1 Tarleton.

West Texas A&M grounded into a double play that plated a runner from third to make it a one-run game in the fifth, then appeared in control after exploding for two RBI doubles and a 2-run single in the bottom of the seventh.

West Texas A&M began the scoring in the bottom of the first on an RBI groundout.

Tarleton and ASU will be meeting for the ninth time this season with ASU winning five of the previous eight including Friday’s tournament shutout. Tarleton has swept a doubleheader from the Rams this season, winning 3-1 and 2-1 on April 11 in San Angelo.

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