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Wonder Boys force "if-necessary" game behind Mason Willis' complete game gem; fall in championship final to top-seeded UAM


NORTH LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Tech baseball team faced elimination from the 2024 Great American Conference Tournament five times over the past two weekends and won all five of those games before finishing runner-up at the tournament on Saturday afternoon.
Despite not claiming the GAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Central Region Tournament with a league tournament championship this weekend, the Wonder Boys remain positioned to receive an at-large berth to the regional as they were the No. 3-ranked team in the last region rankings that were released earlier this week.
The Wonder Boys will know for sure that they are in a regional for the second-straight year and third in the last four years on Sunday night as the NCAA will air its selection show on NCAA.com. The selection is scheduled to start at 9:30 p.m. CDT.
In the first game, the Wonder Boys were the road team for the first time in the tournament as they were the lower seed to top-seeded UAM, but it allowed the Wonder Boys to strike first in the top of the first on a single to left field by Nick Jones.
The Boll Weevils then tied the game in the second, but the Wonder Boys erupted for six runs in the top of the sixth to grab control of the game. All six of those runs that inning came with two outs. The big blow in the inning was a bases clearing double by Cole Dawson. Later in the inning, Grant Jones had a RBI single, Markos Cabranes stole home on a double-steal with G. Jones and Logan Schwenke had a RBI triple.
In the top of the sixth, the Wonder Boys extended their lead out to eight with two more runs. Both of those runs scored on a single through the right side by N. Jones.
UAM would get those two runs back in the bottom of the frame, but Tech starting pitcher, Mason Willis righted the ship and went on to hold the Boll Weevils scoreless over the final three innings to secure the complete game victory and force the "if necessary" game.
In the second game, UAM were the ones to strike first and scored three runs in the bottom of the first on a three-run home run. The Wonder Boys would rally back and scored three runs of their own in the next half inning to knot the score at three-all. In that inning, Dawson had a two-run single and Cabranes had a RBI single as well.
In the third, the Boll Weevils powered their way to the lead again with a two-run homer. They would go on to tack on a run of insurance in the fifth and two more in the eighth to account for their eight runs in the game.
Down to their final at-bats, the Wonder Boys would score twice and bring the potential tying run to the plate, but UAM was able to hold on for the 8-5 win.

Wonder Boys advance to Championship Saturday with pair of elimination game wins on Friday
The No. 2-seed Arkansas Tech baseball team faced elimination from the 2024 Great American Conference Tournament twice on Friday and emerged victorious in each game to survive and advance to the championship game on Saturday against top-seeded Arkansas-Monticello.
Tech's first elimination game victory came in 10 innings against No. 5-seeded Southern Arkansas. The Wonder Boys then turned around about 40 minutes later and shutout No. 3-seed Harding, 5-0. Saturday's game against UAM will be the first meeting of the tournament for the Wonder Boys against the Boll Weevils.
In the game against SAU, the Wonder Boys scored first with a single run in the bottom of the first on a RBI single from Christian Olea. They would go on to score single runs in each of the next two innings to take a 3-0 lead over the Muleriders.
SAU finally broke through on the scoreboard in the fifth and pulled within a run with a run in the sixth. By the eighth inning, the Muleriders had managed to tie the game at three-all on a solo home run out to left field.
Neither team would score in the ninth as the game played on into extra innings.
In the top of the 10th, the Muleriders were retired in order, sending the game to the bottom of the frame. In that part of the inning, Nick Jones would get things going with a one-out single to centerfield. Olea then drew walk to push Jones into scoring position. Once at second, Jones was pinch-ran for by Aaron Hogue.
The Muleriders then went to the bullpen, but the Wonder Boys would load the bases immediately on a single through the right side by Keaton Ranallo. With the potential winning run at third and one out, the Muleriders made a defensive change in centerfield and brought him in as the fifth infielder as well as a pitching change.
On the first pitch after the changes, Brendyn Bard hit a sinking line drive to right field that fell just under the glove of the SAU right fielder for the game-winning hit.
The momentum of that walk-off win carried over into the second elimination game of the day for the Wonder Boys as they once again jumped out to an early 1-0 lead with a run in the bottom of the first. This time it was Nick Jones who singled to left to drive in his brother Grant Jones, who had a one-out hustle double earlier in the inning.
The Jones brothers then combined to score the Wonder Boys' second run as N. Jones drove in G. Jones on a groundout to shortstop. This time, G. Jones led off the inning with a single, stole second and advanced to third on a balk before being driven in by N. Jones.
That score held all the way until the bottom of the seventh inning as Tech starting pitcher, Jack Rector turned in his best outing of the season as he held Harding scoreless over those seven innings and scattered four hits, all singles.
After Rector had gotten through the top of the seventh with no runs allowed, the Wonder Boys offense came alive in the bottom half as they scored three runs on three hits to give them a little more breathing room.
Now leading 5-0, the Wonder Boys turned to their bullpen for go-to reliever Will Horton. Horton, who had pitched in relief in both of Tech's games in the tournament to that point, and got the win against SAU, was on again to start the eighth inning.
ision to bring him back in proved to be the right one as Horton preserved the shutout and allowed one hit and struck out three.