UCA Red Hot After Sweep

Local Sports
CONWAY, AR – The University of Central Arkansas Bears closed out a dominant sweep of first-place Sam Houston State on Saturday with a 6-2 victory in their Southland Conference series finale at Bear Stadium.

The Bears (20-20, 11-7) got another strong starting pitching performance from junior left hander Brad Verel and solid backend work from senior Conner Williams in holding the Bearkats (22-15, 14-7) to just two runs on the day, and just four for the entire series. Verel (4-2), in just his third start of the season, went a season-high seven innings, allowing just five hits, two runs and striking out five. His three starts have all been in conference play and he has won all three.

Williams came on for the eighth and tossed two scoreless innings, with just one hit and three strikeouts, including the final two outs in the top of the ninth inning to seal the sweep.

For the weekend, UCA’s five pitchers that saw action combined for a 1.33 earned-run average, striking out 24 and walking eight. SHSU had a 5.62 ERA, with 13 walks, four wild pitches and six batters hit. The three-game sweep was UCA’s first of the season and was its fifth series win in six SLC weekends.

The Bearkats scored their only two runs in the top of the first inning but UCA quickly tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Jay Anderson led off with a walk and Josh Ragan was hit by a pitch. Tyler Smith’s sacrifice bunt moved up both runners, with Anderson scoring on Beau Orlando’s ground out. An infield single by Marco Navarro tied it at 2-2. 

Two more came across for the Bears in the second. Kolby Johnson was hit by SHSU starter Seth Ballew (2-4) and Brasher had a bunt single. Anderson’s base hit to center scored Johnson and Ragan’s base hit through the right side made it 4-2. UCA added a single run in the third when Navarro singled and eventually scored all the way from second base on a wild pitch that ended up at the far end of the  SHSU dugout.

Shortstop Joshmar Doran added an RBI groundout in the fifth inning to make it a 6-2 UCA lead. Navarro finished 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored for the Bears, who swept the Bearkats for the first time since 2017, which ironically, was their last trip to Conway.

UCA plays at Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 3 p.m. Tuesday before hitting the road for and SLC weekend at Houston Baptist. Game times are 2 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in Houston.

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