Chris Murray: UCA Bears Come Up Short of Southland Crown; Hogs Primed for NCAAs


CONWAY – Central Arkansas fell into an early hole and could never climb out, falling 9-4 to Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday in the Southland Conference tournament championship game at Bear Field.

The Lions (37-23) built a 6-0 lead after an inning and a half. The UCA Bears got back to within 6-4, but would get no closer. Southeastern reliever Tate Scioneaux held the Bears scoreless over the final 5 1/3 innings to give the Lions some measure of revenge and an automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals. UCA defeated the Lions 4-0 to win the 2013 crown.

“They made big pitches and they got some big plays,” said UCA coach Allen Gum. “We got runners on and couldn’t get the big hit. I’m extremely proud of these guys. Even though we didn’t reach our goal of winning a championship, we battled a lot of adversity. These guys fought hard and finished hard.”

UCA (32-22) caught some bad breaks and made mistakes in the early innings. With the bases loaded and no outs in the first, Daniel Midyett hit a hard grounder back to the mound. It deflected off Bryce Biggerstaff’s glove for an infield RBI single. Had he fielded it cleanly, it would have certainly resulted in a double play.

Down 2-0 in the second, Biggerstaff retired the first two batters. Jacob Seward grounded to shortstop Justin Reece. Seward was ruled safe at first on a close play, though it appeared the throw beat him. The next five Lions hitters reached base and suddenly it was 6-0. At that point, it looked like the Bears’ late-season streak – nine straight wins – to get to the title game was for naught.

“Our guys did a great job at the end of the year,” Gum said. “We got on a good run, and today things didn’t go our way. Southeastern did a great job and took advantage of mistakes we made, and the ball bounced their way. Even when we got down 6-0 we kept fighting. We just didn’t have a lot left.”

The Bears got on the board in their half of the second. Charles Deckard brought home their first run on a sac fly, and Doug Votolato’s two-out single brought home Scott Zimmerle to make it 6-2.

That remained the score until the bottom of the fourth. Deckard and Carson Dowdle singled, and a two-out error loaded the bases. Chris Townsend was hit by a pitch to plate a run, and Nate Ferrell drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 6-4. Tyler Langley came to the plate and took a mighty swing on the first pitch. He spun and fell to the ground, grabbing his right knee. It looked as though Langley would have to leave the game, but he eventually was able to remain, only to strike out a few pitches later.

Scioneaux struck out Votolato to end a Bears’ threat in the fifth. That began a string of 12 straight batters set down by the Lions’ right-hander. UCA reliever Bo Stich nearly matched Scioneaux, going 4 1/3 innings while allowing just one run on two hits. The Lions added two more runs in the eighth on a single by Andrew Godbold, arguably the league’s top hitter.

“UCA is such a tough ballclub,” said Southeastern Louisiana coach Matt Riser. “It looked like we were going to run away early, but they kept battling. We had a lot of motivation, after finishing runner-up the last two years. He came to me last night and said he wanted the baseball. He came in and shut the door.”

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Arkansas stuck around perhaps a day longer than expected before getting bounced from the Southeastern Conference tournament Saturday in Hoover, Ala.

On Friday, the Hogs fell behind to Ole Miss 6-0 after three innings, which frankly sounds insurmountable considering Arkansas’ offense and the restrictions on bats. But Arkansas didn’t quit, plating three runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings.

The Rebels regained the lead in the seventh, only to have the Hogs tie it in the eighth and win it in the ninth. That sent the 10th-ranked Rebels packing, and gave Arkansas another quality win for their tournament resume.

By Saturday, it was evident that the Hogs had little left in the tank. LSU’s Kyle Bouman held the Hogs hitless through five innings, and the Tigers used a five-run fifth to take an 8-0 lead, eventually winning 11-1.

Arkansas’ offense looks to be coming around, and with a solid 1-2 punch of Trey Killian and Chris Oliver atop the rotation, not to mention the return of Jalen Beeks, the Hogs could be a real threat in the regional. The Hogs find out where they are headed on the NCAA regionals selection show, which airs at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPNU. Again, don’t be surprised if the Hogs are a no. 2 seed at one of numerous regionals in Texas, or possibly at Stillwater, Okla.

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Arkansas State’s run in the Sun Belt tourney in Mobile came to a bitter end on Saturday. UT-Arlington rallied for two runs in the eighth and held on for an 8-7 victory. A Red Wolves win would have forced another meeting between the two, with a shot at UL-Lafayette in the finals on the line.

The Red Wolves finished the season with 32-27, and claimed third place in the Sun Belt regular season.

 UCA Bears Come Up Short of Southland Crown

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