Bryce Biggerstaff Pitches Complete-Game Victory in Bears’ Tourney Opener


CONWAY, Ark. – Senior righthander Bryce Biggerstaff tossed his fourth straight complete game and the University of Central Arkansas Bears opened the Southland Conference Tournament with a solid 3-1 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Wednesday night at Bear Stadium.

The sixth-seeded Bears (30-21), the defending tournament champions, won their seventh straight game and avenged a first-round loss to the third-seeded Islanders (30-26) a year ago. They also played in front of a stadium-record crowd of 758 fans and will now face seventh-seeded McNeese State in the second round at 7 p.m. Thursday.

UCA has now won six SLC tournament games in a row dating to last season’s championship run.

Biggerstaff, a senior from Sherwood and Central Arkansas Christian, allowed just six hits and one earned run, striking out three and walking two. UCA’s offense came up with 11 hits, four by senior centerfielder Doug Votolato, and scored single runs in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings.

“He is a work horse. He has been a great teammate. He wants the ball,” head baseball coach Allen Gum said of his senior right hander. “He doesn’t want to give it up and he wants to go after it. There was no way we were going to pry it out of hands tonight in that last inning. 

“That is what he does. He gives us great starts and complete game after complete game. He has been a bulldog for us the whole year.”

In the fourth inning, junior designated hitter Wesley Hoover singled to center field, moved to second on a fielder’s choice, to third on Nate Ferrell’s fly ball to right field and scored on Tyler Langley’s RBI single to shortstop. UCA made it 2-0 in the fifth when senior shortstop Justin Treece beat out an infield single, advanced to third on consecutive bunts and scored on Votolato’s RBI single to left center.

Votolato, a first-team All-Southland Conference selection, finished 4 for 5 with 2 RBI and two stolen bases to push his league-leading total to 24.

The Bears pushed the lead to 3-0 in the seventh against A&M-CC reliever Kevin Landgrebe. Freshman Carson Dowdle led off with a double into the left-field corner, went to third on a passed ball and scored when Votolato singled to center.

The Islanders finally got a run off Biggerstaff in the eighth inning when third baseman Brandon Tierney had a two-out double to bring in designated hitter Zack Gibson with their lone run. Biggerstaff (7-5) then got Tyler Ware to ground out to end the inning. He followed that with a perfect ninth inning, getting back-to-back fly balls and a ground out to shortstop to end it.

“One hundred and 27 pitches. He pitched like a Friday night guy,” said A&M-CC head coach Scott Malone. “That’s what a No. 1 starter does. He kept us off balance early, we couldn’t get anything going against him.”

A&M-CC’s Matt Danton (7-4) took the loss, allowing 10 hits and 3 earned runs in 6 innings. Langley finished 2 for 3 for the Bears, while Treece and Dowdle were both 2 for 4.

“It was a great win and a great crowd,” said Gum. “There were people down both sides. It was exciting. It was fun and it was loud and a great environment. I was glad we were able to perform well in front of the home crowd.”

Three of the four lower-seeded teams won in first-round action Wednesday. Fourth-seeded Northwestern State will face eighth-seeded Lamar in an elimination game at 9 a.m. Thursday, followed by No. 2 Nicholls State against A&M-CC at noon. No. 5 Southeastern Louisiana will face No. 1 Sam Houston State at 4 p.m., followed by UCA-McNeese at 7.

Bryce Biggerstaff tosses complete game victory

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