After a hectic week of cancellations and bad weather, the Central Arkansas Bears (7-6, 3-0 SLC) baseball team swept Southland Conference powerhouse Stephen F. Austin University (8-6, 0-3) SLC) in their first conference series of the season.
Despite facing a seven-point deficit five innings into the Bears’ first game of the weekend, the Bears managed to pull out nine unanswered runs late in the game to clinch the first victory of the weekend.
Senior center fielder Tyler Langley felt as though their first conference series tested their mettle but proved that the Bears have what it takes to compete in Southland play.
“This weekend we faced a lot of adversity against a great team. The big thing was that we held together and just kept grinding and got the sweep. Logan Preston, Brandon Montalvo and Jacob Richardson really came up big at the plate for us. Michael Haun and Logan Preston made some great plays defensively for us also. Jacob Murray, Chris Durham, Derek Beier and Cody Davenport all were great on the mound for us,” Langley said.
The Bears were held to just two hits as they entered the bottom of the fifth inning by the Lumberjack’s opener Jarred Greene before opening up the flood gates putting up three runs.
Central Arkansas was able to keep SFA quiet throughout the sixth before the Bears got to the plate. The Bears brought in six runs on four hits despite being out-hit by five on the game. Despite this offensive gap, the Bears drew eight walks and one hit by a pitch.
Three walks in a row loaded the bases for the Bears, as senior designated hitter Brandon Montalvo squared up against Greene. Montalvo was walked, driving in freshman outfielder Hunter Strong. Senior third baseman Logan Preston took advantage of an error by the Lumberjacks, sending in senior infielder Chris Townsend and junior shortstop Butch Rea bringing the score to 7-3.
Senior pitcher Connor Gilmore was given a break from the mound in the sixth, making way for sophomore righty Tyler Gray. Gray held SFA from scoring, earning his first win of the season. Junior Jacob Murray came in to finish the game giving himself his fourth save of the season.
The Bears really turned up the heat in the seventh, as senior center fielder Tyler Langley, got himself a single, quickly backed up by Townsend and Montalvo who loaded up the bases for the Bears. After a pitching change for SFA, Preston lined a out a single that drove in Langley and Townsend bringing the gap down to two. Preston and Montalvo made their way around the bases on a passed ball. Montalvo was able to score on a fielder’s choice.
Sophomore outfielder Michael Haun was able to score Preston on a bunt that SFA was unable to make out.
With the score at 7-7, Coach Gum called for freshman Cody Davenport to pinch-hit. Davenport singled to right bringing in McCarty. Rea then sacrifice-bunted to bring the score to 9-7.
In the second game of the series, the Bears were able to beat out SFA with a 3-2 win. Preston clinched the win in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off single that drove in two.
In the final game of the series, Central Arkansas was able to tack on four runs in the seventh inning to close the point gap and take the lead from their 4-1 deficit to 5-4 win. The Bears got off to slow starts in each game in the series pulling off each of their wins with relievers taking the weight off the starting pitcher’s shoulders. Senior Derek Beier and sophomore Chris Durham got the wins for the UCA bullpen in Sunday’s double-header.
Davenport started off for the Bears in the first game on Sunday with seven innings on the mound. He managed to give up six hits and two runs earning five K’s along the way.
Durham was able to pick up the victory as a reliever and Murray nailed down his fifth save for the season with a near-perfect ninth inning.
Langley finished 3-5 with two hits a piece for Townsend and Montalvo.
McCarty and Preston tallied up a pair of RBI each. The Bears managed to outhit the Lumberjacks 13-6. The Bears hope to continue their winning streak as they continue conference play on the road against Lamar University March 18-20.
This article originally appeared in the March 16, 2016 print edition of The Echo.
image via UCA Sports