Rout Of ORU Earns Bears Spot In SLC Title Game

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SUGAR LAND, TX – The University of Central Arkansas Bears entered the 2013 Southland Conference Baseball Tournament having lost nine of their last 12 games during the regular season. Since arriving at Constellation Field, UCA has found the magic, going 4-1, including four consecutive victories in elimination games.

The latest, a 11-3 rout of Oral Roberts on Saturday morning, earns the Bears a spot in the SLC Championship Game at 5 p,m. today on ESPN3. The Bears (38-20) will face either Lamar or Southeastern Louisiana, who played in the other semifinal game Saturday afternoon. UCA also knocked off ORU on Friday to stay alive and set up the rematch less than 24 hours later.

“We had the momentum on our hand from yesterday and we carried it on and didn’t give it back to them,’ said UCA head coach Allen Gum. “We just jumped on them early and found a couple of (foul) lines again. That’s big, we got timely hits. Blake Marchal stealing bases and making things happen and being really aggressive. We came out and it looked like we were having fun playing baseball.’

The Bears, who won their first-ever NCAA postseason game on Thursday morning to stave off elimination, won twice more on Friday, then dispatched ORU in the semifinals by scoring all 11 runs in the first three innings against a combination of three Golden Eagles pitchers. ORU, an SLC newcomer that had swept UCA during the regular season series in Tulsa, had won 15 consecutive postseason tournaments in a combination of the Summit League and Mid-Continent Conference before joining the SLC.

UCA, playing in just its second SLC Tournament, got contributions up and down the lineup Saturday, but none bigger than All-SLC right hander Caleb McClanahan (10-5), who started on just two days rest. The senior from Wynne got a no decision in Wednesday’s opener, throwing seven innings and 81 pitches. He returned Saturday and went six solid innings, allowing just two earned runs and striking out five. He threw 77 pitches, 58 of those for strikes.

Jon Rand, a junior left hander who had pitched just nine innings the entire season, threw the last three frames, allowing three hits and just one run to earn his first save.

“Coming out on two days of rest and giving us everything he had…’ Gum said of McClahanan. “He did an outstanding job for us.’

The Bears took advantage of timely hitting and numerous ORU defensive miscues in the first three innings to put the game out of reach early. UCA got two runs off two hits and an error in the first, then exploded for five more in the second inning. ORU had single runs in the first, second and sixth innings. The Bears finished with 11 hits, including extra-base hits by Jonathan Davis, Ethan Harris, Michael Marietta and Garrett Brown. Marchal, a senior second baseman, also stole three bases.

““Our team, we fight,’ said Marietta, a senior catcher from Oak View, Calif. “Our coaches told us to fight and finish and we struggled in the second half of the season, but it just shows how bad we want it. First game of the tournament, we didn’t start off too hot with our bats. But second game we came out swinging and we just got hot at the right time and our bats have carried over at the right time.. If we keep our focus and have the same at bats as in the first game, we’ll feel good about this next game.’

The SLC Championship game will be UCA’s sixth game since Wednesday, and second consecutive day of multiple games.

“I feel great,’ said Marietta, a four-year Bear and second-team All-SLC selection who was 2 for 5 with 2 RBI. “When you win you feel good, when you lose is when you start feeling it. We’re winning and it feels like I haven’t caught a game since.’

Gum said the resiliency of his Bears is no surprise.

““Our guys are pretty strong,’ said Gum. “I could tell we were getting a little tired late, but we get to go back and get something to eat and change clothes. I think at this point that everyone is a little bit tired and everybody’s legs are a little bit down, but when you grab that heart and that soul, we’ll see what happens.

“I tell you what, it’s great to see the guys that work so hard throughout the year, and then good things come to those who work hard. Our guys work extremely hard.(They are) good guys that have good chemistry and camaraderie, they like each other and they play hard.’

Harris, a senior left fielder, finished 2 for 5 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored, while Brown was 2 for 4 and scored twice. Chris Townsend went 2 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored, while Davis was 1 for 4 with 3 RBI.

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