Harold Coggins: Arkansas Tech Continues Sweeping Ways


Matched against the Great American Conference bottom-feeder, No. 25 Arkansas-Monticello became the first team this year to reach 20 conference wins this spring but the Boll Weevils still took a back seat to No. 4 Arkansas Tech, which stayed in first place with its third consecutive GAC sweep. With an 11-0, eight-inning whitewashing of Rogers State (Okla.) on Tuesday in non-conference play, the Wonder Boys increased their school-record winning streak to 14 games.

Both clubs recorded three-game sweeps last weekend—Tech over Ouachita Baptist and UAM over Southern Nazarene—and became the first two schools to earn berths in next month’s GAC Postseason Championship Tournament, scheduled to be played May 3-6 in Enid, Okla.

Third-place Southern Arkansas had the week off in the league but played a fellow Top 25 school, No. 7 Delta State (a former Gulf South Conference opponent). The No. 11 Muleriders dropped two of the three games against the Statesmen but look to rebound when last-place Southern Nazarene visits Magnolia Saturday and Sunday.

The big difference between the two conference leaders is that, while Arkansas Tech is winning its non-conference midweek tuneups, including a 2-1 victory over SAU on April 9, UAM got pounded at Searcy by Harding on Wednesday, 13-3 in seven innings. A scheduled game bweteen the Weevils and Delta State on Tuesdasy had to be canceled because of inclement weather.

Other midweek contests saw Cameron (Okla.) pummel Southwestern Oklahoma 15-6 and Saint Gregory’s (Okla.) get past East Central 10-5 on Tuesday. OBU dropped Texas A&M International 5-1, Northwestern Oklahoma outscored Newman (Kan.) 16-15 and Oklahoma Baptist dropped Southern Nazarene 12-6 on Wednesday.

UAM’s Zach McKnight and Northwestern’s Eddie Cumpston shared the GAC Pitcher of the Week honor while Southeastern Oklahoma’s Ryan Salter earned Player of the Week award for the 11th week of the 2014 season.

In a weekend spot start, McKnight, a sophomore from Bentonville, threw seven innings in a 13-1 series-opening victory against Southern Nazarene. He limited the Crimson Storm to only three hits. He struck out nine in recording the first complete game of his career. The nine strikeouts set a career high.

Cumpston threw the third no-hitter in NWOSU history last Tuesday when he defeated Hillsdale Baptist (Okla.) in his hometown of Enid at his old home field, David Allen Ballpark. He struck out 10 batters in the win. He retired the first 16 batters of the game.

And Salter recorded a .667 on-base percentage as the Savage Storm scored a three-game sweep of Northwestern on the weekend. In hitting .571 in the series, he scored five runs and added three stolen bases. In the opener, he went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and two stolen bases. He added a triple in game two and a stolen base.

This weekend, Arkansas Tech could go a long way toward sewing up the first regular-season title not won by SAU when the Wonder Boys face Henderson State in Arkadelphia. Across the ravine, Harding and Ouachita Baptist will go at it while SAU gets back in the GAC fray by hosting Southern Nazarene. UAM takes the weekend off.


Arkansas Tech (33-8, 19-5) at Henderson State (17-23, 11-13)

At Clyde Berry Field, Arkadelphia

Tech will look to improve its school record winning streak against the eighth-place Reddies. Four Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys average above a .300 batting average. Mike Kattula leads the Wonder Boys offensively with .371 batting average, followed by Sage Boehner with a .342, Kris Ayers (.336), and Patrick Castleberry (.308). Kattula leads the team with 37 RBIs and Ayers has 35. On the mound, Tech is led by starters Aaron Johnson, Zach Skelton, Mason Reynolds, and Ryan Taylor. Skelton posts a 6-3 win-loss record, while Johnson has a 5-3 record, Reynolds has a 5-0 record and Taylor sports a 3-2 record. Relief pitcher Randy Vallejo leads the team and the conference in saves with 11. For Henderson State, Matt Evans leads with a .317 batting average and 20 RBIs. On the mound, Colton Lorance has a 3.50 ERA and a 5-2 record. Friday’s single game starts at 3 p.m.; Saturday’s doubleheader begins at 1 p.m.

Prediction: Tech 2-1

* * *

Harding (24-17, 14-10) at Ouachita Baptist (20-24, 12-12)

At Rab Rodgers Field, Arkadelphia

The Bisons replaced UAM as the team leader in pitching with a cumulative 3.49 earned run average. Harding also boasts the GAC’s leading hitter in Matt Calhoun, who currently has a .394 batting average and is fourth on on-base percentage at .461. Pitcher Andrew Fiddler still leads the GAC in opponent batting average, with the opposition batting just .211 against him. And the Bisons are still the best in the conference in fielding. OBU counters with senior Davis Ward, the ironman of the GAC. Ward leads the league in innings pitched with 82.2, and complete games with three and is second in strikeouts with 70. The series begins at 3 p.m. on Friday with a single game, followed by a doubleheader on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.

Prediction: Harding sweep

* * *

Southern Nazarene (15-27, 4-23) at Southern Arkansas (30-12, 15-19)

At Walker Stadium at Goodheart Field, Magnolia

The easiest way to recover from a series loss, albeit to another nationally ranked school, is to host the last-place team in the GAC. Statistics—or anything else, for that matter—won’t come into play here. Catch the series opener at 6 p.m. on Friday and a Saturday doubleheader, starting at noon.

Prediction: SAU sweep

* * *

East Central (24-18, 13-11) at Northwestern Oklahoma (20-22, 5-19)

At Myers Stadium, Alva, Okla.

ECU’s Icezack Flemming still leads NCAA Division II in strikeouts with 96 and should get his share this weekend because Northwestern is third in the league in team strikeouts. The Bulldogs do, however, has the GAC home run leader in Jonathan Freemyer. The matchups between Flemming and Freemyer should be worth the price of admission. Friday’s single game stasrts at 7 p.m. while a doubleheader on Saturday begins at noon.

Prediction: ECU 2-1

* * *

Southeastern Oklahoma (19-19, 10-14) at Southwestern Oklahoma (20-19, 12-12)

At SWOSU Athletic Complex, Weatherford, Okla.

Again, a directional series in the GAC. And again, it’s the most evenly matched series of the weekend. This series will feature the league’s best two pitchers in terms of ERA—Southeastern’s Mason Crenshaw (1.90) and SWOSU’s Jonathan Johnson (1.99). Look for three low-scoring games, as Southeastern is eighth in batting as a team and Southwestern is dead last. The series begins with a single game at 2 p.m. on Friday and concludes with a Saturday doubleheader at 1 p.m.

Prediction: Southwestern 2-1


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