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Stunning early exit for No. 1 seed ASU at conference tourney

ASU baseball coach Kenyan Conner called his team's early exit from the conference tournament, among other things, "highly disappointing."

ASU baseball coach Kenyan Conner called his team's early exit from the conference tournament, among other things, "highly disappointing."

OZARK, Ala. — Albany State's chance to regain the conference baseball title turned into one of its quickest tournament exits in years.

It nearly left ASU coach Kenyan Conner nearly speechless as he rode back to Albany on Friday after being eliminated by Miles in a 14-1 blowout — the Rams' most lopsided conference loss of the season.

“Highly disappointed,” Conner said. “That's about the only way I can describe it. I'm just highly disappointed.”

The Rams (18-27), who haven't won a conference title since 2010, entered the tournament as the East Division's No. 1 seed but immediately fell into the losers’ bracket with an opening-round loss to Tuskegee.

ASU briefly extended its season Thursday with a win against Kentucky State, but any chance of a miracle comeback from the losers’ bracket to make the weekend’s title game disappeared early in Friday's game when Miles jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning and then extended it to 12-0 in the fifth inning.

Seven of Miles' first eight runs were put on base by walks, and four runs crossed the plate in the fifth inning from bases-loaded walks. In all, the Rams gave 10 free passes in the game, including six from starting pitcher Jared Arrington.

Arrington had pitched three solid innings and struck out six batters before a routine ground ball was mishandled by Rams shortstop Allen Hardy. That led to the first scored run of the game. Four hits and four bases loaded walks later, Albany State found itself in a 9-0 hole. The Rams never recovered as Miles added three runs in the fifth inning and two additional in the sixth to end the game in the seventh inning by virtue of the 10-run rule.

“We hadn't been pitching well lately, and it came back to bite us,” said Conner, who was named the conference's Coach of the Year on Wednesday.

The Rams only lose three seniors from this year's team — infielder Corbin Williams, infielder Juan Waters and outfielder Kareem Hayes — but Conner doesn't expect the same lineup and pitching staff next season.

“I have to go out and get some players,” said Conner, who hasn't won a conference title in his three years as head coach. “It's time to recruit. There is no time off.

“We have a lot of talent coming back, but once again I can't go the same route pitching-wise. I need to get some new (pitchers) in here.”