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UCA Stays Alive with Two Wins Sunday

Facing elimination twice Sunday, the UCA Bears got two great pitching performances to force a final winner take all game Monday.
Starkville, MS – The Central Arkansas Bears faced off with the Mississippi State Bulldogs for the fifth time this season on Sunday night, and for the third time, they beat the Bulldogs at Dudy Noble Field. The Bears took advantage of four Mississippi State errors and used their second complete game of the day to take down the Bulldogs by a score of 5-2.

After both teams failed to plate a run in the first inning, Mississippi State took an early lead in the top half of the second. After a fly out and a ground out started the inning, third baseman Sam Frost singled to left field. He stole second and moved to third on a throwing error on the play. Catcher Nick Ammirati drew a walk and left fielder Demarcus Henderson laced a single to right field, scoring Frost and giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. Central Arkansas starter Ethan McKinzie got a line out to short to end the frame.

Central Arkansas struck back in the bottom half of the third, taking advantage of a pair of throwing errors by Bulldog shortstop Adam Frazier to take a 2-1 lead. Third baseman Garrett Brown led off the inning with a single to short, bringing shortstop Justin Treece to the plate. Treece hit a grounder just passed the outstretched glove of Mississippi State third baseman Sam Frost but Frazier fielded the ball deep in the hole. He attempted to force out Brown at second but overthrew the second base bag, giving the Bears runners on first and third with no outs. Following a pop up on the infield, right fielder Forrestt Allday drew a walk to load the bases for center fielder Jonathan Davis. Davis hit a grounder to Frazier, who stepped on second and fired low and wide to first base. Brown scored from third and Treece ran home from second, giving the Bears the lead.

Both teams were scoreless through the fourth and fifth inning, but Mississippi State got an equalizer in the top of the sixth. Second baseman Brett Pirtle led off the inning by drawing a walk and advanced to second on a swinging bunt by first baseman Wes Rea. Following a line out to second base, Frost ripped a single up the middle, scoring Pirtle from second to even the score at 2-2. A ground out to the shortstop ended the inning.

Central Arkansas wasted no time in responding, plating three runs in the bottom of the sixth to retake the lead. Left fielder Ethan Harris got the inning started with a single through the right side and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt before catcher Michael Marietta moved him to third with a single to center field. First baseman Scott Zimmerle drove in Harris with another single to center to give the Bears a 3-2 lead. A fly out to right brought Treece to the plate and he one-hopped the wall in left field for a two-run double. Marietta scored from second and Zimmerle scored all the way from first, pushing the Central Arkansas lead to 5-2.

Those three insurance runs would prove to be all that Central Arkansas would need, as McKinzie (4-2) would allow just one hit over the game’s final three innings to give the Bears their second complete game of the day. The senior from Gravette, Arkansas picked up the first complete game of his career, scattering a pair of runs on four hits. He walked five and struck out one.

Trevor Fitts got the start for the Bulldogs, throwing 2.2 innings and allowing two runs on just one hit. He issued two walks and got one strikeout. Myles Gentry (4-1) took the loss, giving up three runs on five hits and a walk in 3.1 innings of work. Will Cox was the most effective Mississippi State pitcher on the day, allowing just one base runner in two innings while string out two.

The win means that the Bears and Bulldogs will play their sixth game of the season tomorrow night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm.


GAME ONE SUNDAY

Facing elimination yet again, the Central Arkansas Bears did what they have done so well over the past week and a half, staring the end of their season in the face and refusing to give in. The fourth-seeded Bears rode an outstanding performance from true freshman Connor Gilmore to a 3-0 win over the second-seeded South Alabama Jaguars, eliminating the Jags and surviving for a rematch against top-seeded Mississippi State.

Both teams scattered some hits over the first three innings of the game, but neither was able to get on the board until Central Arkansas (41-21) struck first in the bottom of the fourth. Left fielder Ethan Harris got the inning started with a double down the right field line, moving to third on a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Blake Marchal. Following an infield popup first baseman Scott Zimmerle slapped a single to left field to drive in Harris and give the Bears a 1-0 lead.

Neither team was able to round the bags again until Central Arkansas scratched out a pair of insurance runs the bottom of the eighth inning off of South Alabama (43-20) closer Kyle Bartsch. Harris again got things going for the Bears, singling to left field. Marchal laid down a bunt and just beat the throw to first giving the Bears runners at first and second with no outs and drawing South Alabama head coach Mark Calvi out of the dugout for a discussion. When all was said and done, Calvi was ejected and Marchal was still on first. A double steal, the Bears’ second of the day, moved the runners to second and third. Catcher Michael Marietta and Zimmerle gave the Bears some insurance lofting a pair of sacrifice flies to center field to extend the Central Arkansas lead to 3-0.

Just as he did in last Saturday’s Southland Conference Championship game, Gilmore came through for the Bears in a big way. The righty from Little Rock, Arkansas tossed a complete-game shutout, allowing just four hits while striking out two and walking one. He didn’t allow a runner to reach third base. Gilmore needed only 101 pitches to complete the game, improving to 5-0 on the season while lowering his ERA to 0.59 on the season. This comes on the heels of a two hit shutout in the SLC championship game and extends Gilmore’s scoreless innings streak to 19 innings, a period in which he has allowed just six hits. When asked if he expected to be throwing an elimination game at an NCAA regional prior to the season, Gilmore replied, “Not at all. But coach asked me to come in and make an impact, and I feel like I did that. My feet are lightly touching the ground right now, it’s incredible.”

Jaime Dennis (2-1) took the loss for South Alabama, allowing a run on six hits in 4.2 innings. Dennis struck out five Central Arkansas batters. Jordan Patterson, who spent most of the game as the Jaguars’ designated hitter, held the Bears scoreless in two innings of work, issuing two walks and striking out three. Dylan Stamey struck out the only batter he faced in the seventh inning, recording one strikeout. Bartsch worked one inning, allowing a pair of runs on two hits and striking out one.

Central Arkansas head coach Allen Gum had nothing but praise for Gilmore, saying, “He’s come such a long way, he’s matured throughout the year and he understands the process. He pitches to his defense and puts the pressure on them. I’ve always believed that good things come to those who work hard and Connor’s definitely worked hard.” When asked what it’s like to see a player from the Central Arkansas region succeed at Central Arkansas, Gum answered, “It’s huge. Our plan was to start in the central part of the state and build out from there. It’s big for our program, and for our university. There’re good players there and when they buy into the system, they can be very successful.”

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