Scott Goode, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information
SEARCY – Junior Chris Taylor hit a seventh-inning grand slam and freshman Austin Allenpitched eight strong innings to lead Harding to a 5-2 victory over East Central in the teams’ Great American Conference series opener Friday at Jerry Moore Field.
The teams will play a doubleheader Saturday at noon to conclude the series.
Harding improved to 13-21 with the victory, moving to 9-13 in the GAC. East Central, who entered the series tied with Harding for seventh place in the conference standings, dropped to 9-21 overall and 8-14 in the GAC.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh and the game tied 1-1, East Central starter Dylan Sanchez (1-9) walked Harding’s Ben Brauss on a 3-2 pitch. Grant Guest followed that with a seeing-eye single up the middle that sent Brauss around to third.
East Central replaced Sanchez with reliever Sheae Edmonds, who walked Luke Van Dover on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. With the count 2-2, Taylor crushed an inside pitch off the scoreboard in left field for Harding’s first grand slam of the season and Taylor’s second home run.
Allen (5-4) held East Central to only one hit through the first five innings before giving up a run in the sixth on an RBI double to left by Kaleb Matthews, the only East Central player with two hits in the game.
Matthews’ second hit, a triple in the eighth, drove in East Central’s second run and cut Harding’s lead to three runs. Allen retired the last hitter of the eighth on a ground out to end the East Central threat.
Junior Mason Faulkner retired East Central in order in the ninth for his fifth save.
Allen yielded only six hits, walked none and struck out seven, tying a season high.
Sanchez gave up six hits and three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. He walked three and struck out none.
Taylor reached base in all four plate appearances. He walked in the first and third innings and lined a double down the third-base line to lead off the sixth.
Harding’s first run came in the first inning. Brauss led off the game with a double and scored Luke Van Dover‘s single to center.
Guest, Van Dover and Taylor each had two hits for Harding.