Benjamin Dishong, Sports Information Director
SAN ANGELO, Texas – The Rogers State Baseball team moved one win away from advancing out of the South Central II Region, defeating host and No. 4 ranked Angelo State 9-8 Friday night in the first game of a best-of-three series between the two programs in the NCAA Tournament.
The Hillcats had to fight off a major comeback attempt from Angelo State, who tied the game in the top of the eighth with a three-run home run.
Christian Merriwether worked a leadoff walk to begin the bottom of the eighth inning and Zack Mannfollowed with another walk to put runners on first and second. Grant Farris then moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt.
Brandon Bradshaw put the Hillcats in front for good with a groundout to the right side, allowing Merriwether to score the go-ahead run.
Brock Knoten, who gave up the three-run home run in the eighth, came back out and pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the ninth to seal the win for Rogers State, recording his second win of the season.
The Hillcats jumped out to an early lead with a two-run second inning, followed by another two-run inning in the third. Brendan Griffith started the scoring with an RBI double to right field, scoring Bradshaw to put RSU ahead 1-0.
Blake Chiaramonte then hit a RBI groundout to score Nick Follett for the final run in the second.
Following a Mann double to right center, Farris brought around both runs in the third inning with a two-run home run to center field, as the Hillcats went ahead 4-0.
Angelo State pulled two runs back in the top of the fourth inning with a double to left center, but the Hillcats and starting pitcher Corey Murphy got out of the inning without any further damage.
Rogers State would respond in the fifth inning as Zack Mann started another two-run inning for the Hillcats with his first collegiate home run, as the senior crushed one over the left field fence.
The Hillcats wouldn’t be done in the inning though, as Farris walked immediately after Mann’s home run and eventually came around to score on a single by Griffin Keller.
After a scoreless sixth inning, Angelo State would cut the game to one with a three-run inning in the seventh. The first run came on a sacrifice fly that the umpires ruled the runner safe after deliberation on a close play at the plate following a strong throw in from Bradshaw to Christopher Ford for what appeared to be the third out of the inning.
In the next at bat, the Rams cut it to 6-5 with a two-run home run.
In the bottom of the seventh inning Bradshaw worked a one-out walk and then made it to third on a double to left field by Follett. Two batters later Griffith brought both Hillcats around to score on a single to right field, as Rogers State extended its lead back to 8-5.
The Hillcats then relieved Murphy, who finished with seven innings pitched, allowing five runs on six hits with four strikeouts in the no decision.
Knoten would come into the game, allowing a walk and a single before the home run that tied the game at eight.
The Hillcats will face Angelo State again on Saturday, looking to clinch the South Central II Region. Rogers State will need just one win to clinch the best-of-three series. First pitch for game two is set for 3:30 p.m. with a 7:00 p.m. start slated afterward, if necessary.