ET College Baseball: LeTourneau marks first sweep of UT Tyler
April 12, 2014 at 10 p.m.
LeTourneau baseball has turned a corner.
Not only on the field as the Yellowjackets are battling atop the American Southwest Conference standings but as a program in general.
"This program has taken a turn," LeTourneau head coach Robin Harriss said. "We've worked hard at recruiting to get kids that fit here and it helps that we're a veteran club. We've done a good job at retention and that's been big for us.
"We're going to continue to do that - to continue to recruit and get kids that will stay here, develop and be happy to be a part of a winning program."
Friday night, the Yellowjackets snapped a 19-game skid against UT Tyler.
Saturday afternoon at Conrad-Vernon Field upped the ante, using strong pitching, solid defense and timely hitting to complete the sweep of the Patriots for the first time in school history.
After an 11-1 start to the season, followed by a bumpy two-week stretch, LeTourneau (22-9, 6-8) remains in the hunt in the ASC following the three-game sweep.
"It seems like every series is huge for us," Harriss said. "We put ourselves in good position early on but after scuffling the past few weeks, this weekend was huge to get us back in there."
For Harriss and the Yellowjackets, it didn't matter who was opposite the field of them as they returned home this weekend.
"We've had some rough weekends and we needed this," Harriss said. "We were expecting to win no matter who it was. I was asked if I consider Tyler a rivalry but it's never been a rivalry because we've never beat them. You can't call it a rivalry unless you compete.
"It's three wins at a crucial point of the season."
<strong>LETOURNEAU 3, UT TYLER 0</strong>
Cody Whitley used 51 pitches to conduct a dominating seven-inning outing to kick off action Saturday afternoon.
Whitley - a junior lefty from Dickinson - faced two above the minimum in the shutout, scattering three hits and striking out two.
Defensively, the Yellowjackets were there to back him up, turning one double play and recording eight pop-up outs in seven error-free innings
Kyle Jacobs finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs for LeTourneau. Spring Hill standout Garrett Methvin added an RBI single as well as assisting or recording in 11 outs at first base.
A leadoff error, followed by a sacrifice bunt from former Pine Tree Pirate Caleb Pritchett and an RBI single from Jacobs put the Yellowjackets on the board first in the third inning. Methvin followed with an RBI single to give LeTourneau a 2-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Whitley carried a no-hit bid into the fifth inning before UT Tyler's Reed Coover broke through for a single, which was quickly erased by a 6-4-3 double play.
Pritchett drew an eight-pitch walk in the fifth inning before stealing second and advancing to third on a wild pitch. He scored on a bunt squeeze from Jacobs for the 3-0 final.
<strong>LETOURNEAU 4, UT TYLER 1</strong>
Hallsville's Justin Jenkins took the bump in the nightcap, firing off eight innings with one run and four strikeouts.
The Patriots out-hit LeTourneau, 8-4, in the contest but again defense was on the Yellowjackets' side, turning three double plays in the 4-1 win to complete the sweep.
Waxahachie sophomore catcher Dillon Yates also gunned down two runners.
Jenkins opened with a strikeout before Billy Lirely laced a first-inning single for UT Tyler. He was erased with ease attempting to steal second to end the threat.
The Hallsville native walked a batter with one away in the second inning before Methvin plucked a hard-hit line drive just to his right and completed the double play with a tag at first to back up the junior righthander.
LeTourneau loaded the bases with no outs to start the fourth and Yates cleared them all with a three-RBI double to the left-center gap to give LeTourneau a 3-0 lead after four innings.
Jenkins retired seven straight before UT Tyler broke through with a single, which again, was erased by a 6-4-3 double play from LeTourneau.
UT Tyler snapped a 16-inning scoreless drought on the weekend in the eighth inning, on two hits and a tough-luck error.
LeTourneau responded in the home frame, netting an insurance run on a hard-hit groundout from Methvin.
New Diana native Jordan Price picked up the save.
LeTourneau will return to action on Friday, traveling to Alpine for a three-game set with Sul Ross. The Yellowjackets return to Longview on April 25 for a showdown with Mary-Hardin Baylor, who currently sit at 15-8 in the conference standings.
"We're looking to make a strong push at the end to get good seeding in the tournament," Harriss said. "We took care of business at home like we needed to and can relax just a little bit before heading out to face a good Sul Ross team."
<em>(Follow Hayden Henry on Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/hayden_h" target="_blank">@hayden_h</a>)</em>