If Game 1 was a breeze, Game 2 was a trip to the sauna.
After a run-rule win on Friday, UT Tyler battled back from a five-run deficit and needed a game-ending double play to sweat out an 11-10 win over Hardin-Simmons on Saturday at Irwin Field.
Billy Lirely, named series Most Outstanding Player with three hits and five RBIs over two games, hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to help insure the Patriots swept the first-round playoff series in the American Southwest Conference Tournament.
"When you're in the playoffs and when we're looking at the last day you could possibly play your season, then I don't think you ever go away," UT Tyler coach Chris Bertrand said. "We never doubted for a second."
With the win, the Patriots (31-10) will host the final rounds of the ASC Tournament. The four-team, double elimination series will send the winner to the NCAA tournament.
Hardin-Simmons (22-21), playing as the home team in the second of a best-of-three series, jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the first inning. The Cowboys scored six runs on four hits, taking advantage of five walks to chase Jack Barkley before the Patriots starter had recorded two outs.
UT Tyler chipped away at the deficit, scoring two in the third and three in the fourth, though HSU responded with a single run in the bottom half of both innings.
Doubles from T.J. Martin and William Allen pulled the Patriots within 8-7 in the fifth before Lirely tied the game with a single to plate Allen. Jeff Costa, who went 3 for 5 with four RBIs and two doubles, drove Lirely home with a single to give UT Tyler a 9-8 lead.
"I think when you look at the way that game played itself out, every time we really needed something, we got something," Bertrand said. "Every time our back was against the wall or we were up against the ropes, we answered."
Kosta's hit chased Cowboys starter James Simmons and reliever Brandon Bollinger only lasted one batter before HSU coach Steve Coleman brought in his closer Tyler Brunnemann, the school's all-time leader in strikeouts.
Brunnemann struck out UT Tyler's top hitter, Kevan House, to end the fifth with the bases loaded. He proceeded to strike out six more batters to keep the Cowboys close.
In the final frame, Allen drew a two-out, 10-pitch walk to bring Lirely to the plate. The junior from Waynesville, N.C., took the next pitch over the centerfield wall to give UT Tyler a three-run lead.
Patriots closer Derek Miller was thankful for the extra cushion.
After an infield hit and a walk, Jon Finney, who went 4 for 5 with three RBIs, doubled off Miller to score two, making it 11-10.
Miller, the national leader in saves, then got Marcus Uechi to line out to Martin at third, who threw to second to double-up Finney.
"We've got all the trust in the world in Derek," Bertrand said. "We want him to have the ball in his hand and anytime he does with our defense we're going to be in good shape."
At Irwin Field
UT Tyler 11, Hardin-Simmons 10
UT Tyler102 330 002 — 11 13 1
HSU601 100 002 — 10 13 1
Jack Barkley, Joshua Holley (1), Tye Weber (5), Matt Sheppard (8), Derek Miller (9) and Cayden Cunnif. James Simmons, Brandon Bollinger (5), Tyler Brunnemann (5) and Zack Patino. W – Weber (2-1). L – Simmons. S – Miller (14).
2B – UTT: Jeff Kosta 2, T.J. Martin, William Allen. HSU: Jon Finney, Troy Nicholson. 3B – UTT: Sam Lane, Isaac Tijerina, Chris Back. HR – UTT: Billy Lirely (ninth, one on). HSU: Trey Thompson (fourth, none on).
T – 3:05. Att. – 611.
RECORDS — UT Tyler 31-10; Hardin-Simmons 22-21.
NEXT UP — UT Tyler vs. Concordia-Texas, Friday, in ASC Tournament, at Irwin Field.