RUSSELLVILLE — One Harding win or one Ouachita Baptist loss. That's all the Bison baseball team needs next week to clinch a berth in the Great American Conference Tournament after splitting a doubleheader Saturday at Arkansas Tech. The Wonder Boys won the opener 8-4, but the Bisons answered with an 8-5 eight-inning win in game two.
Harding is 20-17 overall and 15-15 in the GAC. Ouachita also split its doubleheader with Henderson State and is 12-18 in conference games. The Bisons can claim one of eight tournament bids when it hosts East Central next weekend in Searcy. Ouachita has to sweep Southern Nazarene on the road have East Central win all three against Harding to take the tournament spot.
In the opener, Arkansas Tech (23-14, 20-10) jumped out to a 6-0 lead after five innings. Harding cut the lead in half in the top of the sixth with Chris Witzke doubling in two and Caleb Stull driving in Witzke with a two-out single.
Tech tacked on two more in the bottom of the sixth to pull out to an 8-3 lead. Harding's Cody Smith hit his fourth home run of the season with one out in the eighth but the Bisons got no closer.
Riyan Rodriguez (4-4) allowed three runs on six hits over 5 2/3 inning with four strikeouts to earn the win.
Andrew Bradshaw (6-2) lost for the first time since March 6, a span of seven starts. He gave up four earned runs in four innings. Logan McCall (2.0 IP, 4 ER) and Dylan Adcock (2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER) pitched out of the pen for the Bisons.
Luke Van Dover was the only Bison with multiple hits in game one. He went 2-for-3 with his 10th double of the season and the Harding record 57th of his career.
Harrison Heffley notched his first two-homer game of the season in game two. The second of his home runs came as part of Harding's three-run eighth inning and sealed the win for the Bisons. The go-ahead run scored on a squeeze play with David Butterfield's bunt scoring Van Dover from third.
Harding led 5-0 after three innings. Michael Chrisman drove in two runs with a single in the second. Heffley led off the third with a home run. The other two runs scored on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch and a bases-loaded walk.
Tech scored three in the fourth off Harding starter Ryder Yakel (5-1). With two outs, two Tech runners reached before Kandon Bennett hit a three-run homer to left.
It was the first of three Tech home runs. The other two were solo shots from Gabriel Garcia and Matt Robins in the bottom of the seventh. Tech almost had a third home run in the inning, and it would have been the game-winner, but Cody Smith in center field robbed Evan Hafley by pulling back a fly ball that had cleared the fence for the second out. Smith handled another long fly ball for the third out, sending the game into extra innings.
After Harding put up three in the top of the eighth, Joey Lawhorn relieved Yakel. He walked the first batter he faced but got a double play and a flyout to end the game and give him his first save.
Heffley joined Chrisman as the only two Bisons with two-HR games this season. Chrisman hit two at Henderson State on April 20.
Heffley and Chrisman both had three hits and three RBIs. Chrisman had his team-best 20th multiple-hit game and raised his average to a team-best .414. Smith was 2-for-3 with two runs, and Van Dover hit his 58th career double.
Tech reliever Nick Kovar (1-1) gave up Harding's three eighth-inning runs. He had not allowed a run in his previous 19 2/3 innings covering his last 15 appearances.
Yakel allowed 10 hits and five earned runs, all of which came on three home runs. He did not walk anyone and struck out six.