BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (ASU Athletics) – Carlos Ocasio went 3-for-5 at the plate and scored twice as the Alabama State University baseball team jumped out to an early lead and didn’t look back in winning the Magic City Diamond Classic, 9-2, in a Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) game on Friday night at Regions Field.
“I’m speechless,” Alabama State head coach Jose` Vazquez said. “I’m just happy were apart of something like this. The whole day, and all of the events and everything they had for us was first class. I am tipping my hat to the City of Birmingham and the Black College Sports Group, LLC (BCSG) for organizing a great event for us.”
Alabama State (15-15 overall, 11-2 SWAC) extended its win streak to eight games, its longest streak since the 2016 season and will look to make it nine straight as the three-game SWAC series shifts to Huntsville.
“We got the lead early and gave Tyler Howe some cushion to go out there and compete,” Vazquez said. “Bottom line tonight is that we played good defense. We didn’t have any errors and when we play good defense, we are a good team.
Tyler Howe (5-3) started on the hill and earned his third consecutive win in 5.2 innings. He fanned eight and gave up two runs on seven hits. The two runs surrendered snapped a 14-inning scoreless streak dating back to March 24 against Mississippi Valley State. Austin Bizzle pitched the final 3.1 innings in relief.
Alabama State started strong as the Hornets loaded the bases in the top of the first and scored two runs on one hit and took advantage of a Bulldog error.
Ocasio drew a one-out double to right center and Cage Cox followed with a base on balls. Gustavo Rios reached on an error to load the bases. Ray Hernandez walked to bring in Ocasio and Joseph Estrada plated Cox with a sacrifice fly to center to give Alabama State a 2-0 lead.
In the third with two down, the Hornets scored their third run when Rios walked and came around to score when Hernandez reached on an infield hit and advanced all the way to third on an error by Alabama A&M pitcher Caleb Gay to give ASU a 3-0 advantage.
The Hornets plated three runs on two hits in the fourth to add to the lead.
Hunter Allen walked to begin the inning and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Joshua Dunson. After a walk to Diandre Amion, Carlos Ocasio loaded the bases with a single to right center. Cox scored Allen with a sacrifice fly to center as the runners tagged up and advanced a base. Both Amion and Ocasio came in to score as Rios belted his first triple of the season off the wall in right to extend the Alabama State lead to 6-0.
Estrada made it 7-0 in the fifth with his fourth homer of the season – a solo shot – deep over the right field wall.
Alabama A&M (8-26, 5-8) got on the board in the sixth inning, snapping a 14-inning scoreless streak by Howe. The Bulldogs plated two runs on three hits to cut the deficit to 7-2.
Alabama State picked up a run in the seventh as Dunson singled to right center with two outs. He stole second and advance to third on error. Amion walked and after a pitching change, Ocasio reached on an infield hit to plate Dunson and give ASU an 8-2 lead.
The Hornets put the game away in the ninth as Hunter Allen doubled to left to begin the frame. Eriq White, who pinch hit for Dunson, hit a long single off the wall in left to plate Allen and give Alabama State a comfortable 9-2 advantage.
Gay (2-4) pitched five innings in picking up the loss. He was tagged for seven runs (five earned) on four hits with five walks and four strikeouts. Owen Stubberfield, Brandon Marsonek and Casey Warner worked in relief.
Alabama State returns to action on Saturday in Huntsville against Alabama A&M. First pitch from Bulldog Field is set for 3 p.m.
(Courtesy: Alabama State Athletics)