KINGSVILLE – In a do-or-die game for the two top-seeded teams in the 2014 Lone Star Conference Baseball Championship, West Texas A&M senior Tyler McKnight came up with a RBI single up the middle in the bottom of the seventh to break a 3-3 score and ultimately a 4-3 win.
With the win, the No. 2-seeded Buffs improved to 34-18 on the year and tied the school record for wins in a season. WT now will play the loser of the No. 4-seed Angelo State vs. No. 3-seed Tarleton State in the second elimination game for the Buffs tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Nolan Ryan Field. The winner of that game will advance to Championship Saturday. TAMUK fell to 34-18 on the year.
A single to right by junior Nick Chapman and a wild pitch put him at second with two out in the bottom of the first as the Buffs were the home team in the game based on a coin flip, but wore grey pants with black tops and used the visitor’s dugout for the game. An infield single by senior Tyler McKnight followed, but Chapman was gunned down at the plate ending the inning.
Back-to-back singles with nobody out in the bottom of the second put the Buffs in scoring position. Junior Jacob Caples hit a sacrifice bunt moving the runners to second and third with one out. Junior Justin Hargrove singled to center, plating the first run of the game and runners at the corners. Junior Dylan Dyson scored on a wild pitch for a 2-0 lead. Another wild pitch moved Hargrove to third, followed by a walk and a fielder’s choice put runners at the corners with two out. Chapman singled through the right side for a 3-0 lead.
A walk and wild pitch put a runner at second for the Javelinas in the top of the third and nobody out. A bunt single put runners at the corners with one out. A stolen base got the Javelinas out of the double play as Matt Perez singled through the left side for a 3-1 score and again runners at the corners. WT got out of the jam as Taylor Taska lined into a double play to end the frame.
The Javelinas put runners at the corners with one out in the top of the fifth. Perez singled home a run for a 3-2 WT lead. Taska hit a sacrifice fly to right to erase the deficit tying the game at three. A walk put runners at first and second with two down and a mound visit by the Buffs. A fielder’s choice got the Buffs out of the inning.
The Javelinas began the seventh with a single to left center. A strikeout on a bunt followed and a great defensive play by the Buffs as Perez tried to take second, but was gunned down at second for the second out and a runner at third. Taska walked for runners at the corners. WT starter Scott Cone got Brian Fraizer to fly out to right to end the inning preserving the 3-3 game.
A single and wild pitch put senior Matt Redfearn at second with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh. Following a strikeout, junior Aaron Blair was intentionally walked for senior Tyler McKnight who singled up the middle plating Redfearn for a 4-3 lead. TAMUK made a move to the bullpen replacing starter Denver Diefenbach for Matt Rhodes. Senior David Hebert singled to left loading the bases with one away. Dyson grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Following a strong outing from senior Scott Cone, who went seven innings, allowing nine hits, three runs – two earned, three walks and seven strikeouts, senior Joshua Weyker shut the Javelinas down in the eighth with a three-up-three-down frame and a strikeout.
Following a scoreless frame for the Buffs in the bottom of the eighth, WT closer Paul Lujan came in for the save opportunity in the ninth. A fly out to left began the inning on a 3-1 count as Clint Wallace sent one almost to the wall. Lujan fanned Dustin Aguilar for the second out and got a ground out to end the game for his seventh save of the season.
Cone (7-2) earned the win, while Diefenbach (9-4) took the loss as he went 6.1 innings, allowing 11 hits, four earned runs, three walks and he fanned four.
Offensively, the Buffs tallied 12 hits as Hebert led the way going 3 for 4 with a run scored, while McKnight and Chapman each were 2 for 4 and each had a RBI.
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