Jessica Duff: UCA Bears Baseball Riding Serious Success This Season

Baseball fans in Arkansas have a lot to cheer about these days, especially if the team you’re cheering for are the UCA Bears.

So far this season, the UCA Bears have won 32 games and only lost 13. Among those wins are some signature victories over strong non-conference programs. Back on February 23rd, UCA defeated Kansas in a midweek matchup 9-3. That win was sandwiched between a two-game series against Jackson State University, both of which they won. In early March, UCA faced Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., a team ranked No. 3 in the country at the time. The Bears took two of three in that series.

Following the series win over the Bulldogs, as well as their success up to that point in the season, UCA debuted in two national baseball polls. They came in at No. 30 in both the National College Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) poll and the Collegiate Baseball poll. It was the first time for the UCA Bears to be ranked since moving to NCAA Division I in 2007.

While the non-conference wins are definitely something to brag about, there have been a few bumps in the road. Those bumps have come during conference play. Currently, UCA stands at 11-10 in conference play, which means only three of the team’s losses this season came outside of the conference.

Bryce Biggerstaff UCA Bears Baseball

Bryce Biggerstaff UCA Bears Baseball

Junior right-hander Bryce Biggerstaff pointed out that many of the games the UCA Bears have lost this season were pretty close games. Taking a closer look at the schedule, six of the Bears’ 10 conference losses are by just one run and one game was a two-run loss.

Biggerstaff says the team has had great success all season, despite those losses. A lot of their success is due to great team chemistry. Plus it helps having a few good pitchers on the team to help lead the way.

“When you have eight or nine guys in our bullpen as starters that the coaches trust to pitch, it’s good,” Biggerstaff said. “It takes a lot pressure off the younger guys. The whole pitching staff is doing really well so that’s been a big part of our team’s success. Our hitters are doing a great job as well. We’re just playing really good baseball overall.”

The Bears look to continue their success in a conference weekend series against Stephen F Austin. They faced UALR Tuesday night at Dickey Stephens Park in a 12-inning loss to the Trojans 5-3. (Notes from that game courtesy UCA are available below.)

UCA and UALR are each competing quite well in their respective conferences. Both are in prime position to make a run as the regular season wraps up and postseason play begins.

UALR just locked up the eighth spot in the Sun Belt. They’re also coming off a series win over Florida Atlantic and senior pitcher Blake Huffman was just named Sun Belt pitcher of the week.

But the Trojans’ recent success doesn’t bother UCA head coach Allen Gum. Here is what Gum said before the game Tuesday night:

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to get out there and compete against a very good baseball team that’s highly competitive and plays hard,” Allen says. “I think there [are] a lot of similarities between the two programs.”

In what may end up being a pitcher’s duel, Biggerstaff will get some rest from the UALR matchup. But he knows how much this game means to both schools.

“I think both teams are going to have some intensity, you know, being so close to each other. And we didn’t get to play last time, it got rained out. So it’s going to be a big game. [It’s a] big, big mid-week game for us tomorrow,” Biggerstaff said.


NORTH LITTLE ROCK  – For the second straight year, the University of Central Arkansas Bears and UALR Trojans went extra innings in their meeting at Dickey-Stephens Park. And for the second straight year, the Trojans won the game, this time with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning.

The Trojans (25-23) got a runner on base off UCA reliever Blake Clayton with a walk by Ryan Hope before Austin Pfeiffer drilled a pitch over the left-field fence to end it.

UCA led for most of the game as freshman righthander Connor Gilmore of Little Rock threw four no-hit innings before the Trojans managed their first base hit in the bottom of the fifth. UCA took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Blake Marchal led off with a single up the middle and eventually scored on Justin Treece’s two-out infield single and a throwing error by the UALR shortstop. The Bears added another run in the third when Ethan Harris singled and stole second, and went to third on an error. Michael Marietta’s sacrifice fly made it 2-0.

Chris Townsend singled to lead off the seventh and Marietta followed with a single into the left-field corner. An error on UALR left fielder Myles Parma, who misplayed the ball, allowed Townsend to come around and score to give the Bears a 3-0 lead. The Trojans answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh on two hits and a UCA error.

The Trojans then tied it up at 3-3 with a run in the ninth off UCA closer Ethan McKinzie. McKinzie got two quick outs in a groundout and fly ball to right but Bryson Thionnet singled through the left side of the infield and advanced to second on a wild pitch. David Guarno singled in Thionnet to tie it and send it to extra innings. Both teams went in order in the 10th and UCA did again in the 11th. UALR got a runner on base in the 11th on a throwing error by second baseman Blake Marchal, but Marietta backed up the play and threw out the runner as he tried to return to first base.

Senior right fielder Forrestt Allday went 4 for 6 for the Bears, and made several nice catches in right field. Senior second baseman Blake Marchal was 2 for 4 and senior catcher Michael Marietta went 2 for 5 with UCA’s only RBI. The Bears left 13 runners on base. Clayton (2-1) got the loss, going 2 1/3 innings and allowing just one hit. Dillon Moritz (3-2) got the victory, pitching the final three innings for the Trojans and allowing no hits or runs.

The Bears return to Southland Conference play this weekend, hosting Stephen F. Austin at Bear Stadium. Game times are 6 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday for “Senior Day.”

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