Steve East, Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations
CONWAY – A long, long day of baseball ended late Friday night with the University of Central Arkansas Bears securing their sixth consecutive trip to the Southland Conference Baseball Tournament in Sugar Land, Texas.
On Senior Day at Bear Stadium, the Bears overcame a series of rain delays to sweep a doubleheader from the Nicholls Colonels 7-6 and 5-4 to finish 17-13 in the final SLC standings. UCA will open play at Constellation Field next Wednesday at a time to be determined.
The Bears finished off the Colonels in the nightcap by scoring the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning on junior Justin McCarty’s RBI single up the middle that scored sophomore Hunter Strong. Junior closer Ty Tice earned his eighth save, working around a leadoff walk in the ninth.
UCA overcame a 3-1 deficit after four innings by scoring three in the fifth, with all three runs coming in on a costly throwing error by the Colonels’ third baseman. Nicholls (29-27, 15-15) tied it in the sixth with a sacrifice fly, setting up UCA’s late heroics.
McCarty finished 2 for 4 with an RBI _ 5 for 8 for the day _ while senior shortstop Brooks Balisterri closed out his home career by going 2 for 4. Redshirt freshman Mark Moyer tossed eight innings, striking out five and allowing just two earned runs.
The Bears had to come back from a deficit in the opening game as well, trailing 6-3 in the middle of the fifth inning. But UCA got a run in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI from Josh Somdecerff, then picked up three more runs in the sixth. Rigo Aguilar, Dusty Wright and Balisterri recorded RBIs as the Bears took the lead for good.
Senior Brandon Hagerla relieved sophomore Cody Davenport in the fifth inning and finished off the victory, his team-high eighth of the season. Leadoff batter Keaton Presley finished 3 for 5 with 2 RBI, while McCarty was 3 for 4 and Balisterri 2 for 3.
The Bears will know their seeding and opponent after Lamar and McNeese finish their three-game series at 3 p.m. Sunday. The tournanent begins at 9 a.m. Wednesday with four first-round games at the home of the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Hagerla, Balisterri and righthander Jacob Murray closed out their UCA home careers on Saturday with a between-game ceremony. Murray, from Silsbee, Texas, pitched two scoreless innings in Thursday’s series opener, while Hagerla and Balisterri both contributed heavily to Friday’s sweep.