UCA Rallies to Take 6-4 Decision From Bears in Series Finale
Feb. 16, 2014
CONWAY, Ark. - UCA rallied from a two-run deficit to salvage the final contest of its three-game series against Missouri State Sunday afternoon at Bear Stadium, pulling out a 6-4 decision over the Bears on Nate Ferrell's two-run single with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The home-standing Bears found themselves in an early hole for the third straight day, as Missouri State scored a run in the top of the first, then built a pair of two-run leads thanks to home runs from Tyler Harris and Conor Smith.
But UCA answered each time, using a balanced offensive attack in which all nine starters either scored a run, contributed a sacrifice bunt or drove in a baserunner. The Bears would also take advantage of a pair of MSU errors to score three unearned runs, including the two go-ahead tallies in the eighth. Chris Townsend's two-out triple in the fifth tied the score at 4-4, and three UCA pitchers teamed up to keep MSU off the scoreboard - and out of the hits column - for the remainder of the day.
The game's decisive moment came with the bases full and two out in the bottom of the eighth, as UCA cashed in on a Bears' throwing error to ignite its late rally. Joey Hawkins' throw to first pulled Conor Smith off the bag, allowing Doug Votolato to reach safely with one out. A Justin Treece single and a walk to Scott Zimmerle loaded the bases, but MSU reliever Adam Anawalt came up with a strikeout of Townsend for the second out. But Ferrell lined the next pitch into right-center to chase home Votolato and Treece with the deciding runs.
After MSU shelled UCA pitching for 28 hits over the first two games of the series, the home club responded by limiting the Bears to just five hits in Sunday's finale. Three UCA hurlers combined to hold MSU hitless over the final four innings, while Chris Caudle and Ben Ancheff joined forces to retire 10 of the last 11 Bears hitters in the game.
Caudle (1-0) earned the win after posting two scoreless frames in relief of starter Conor Gilmore, while Ancheff picked up the save with a perfect ninth.
A pair of defensive miscues set the tone for the day and led to single tallies for each club in the early stages of the contest. Missouri State capitalized on a pair of walks and a hit batsman to plate an unearned run in the first when Eric Cheray's two-out grounder to second was mishandled, allowing Tate Matheny to cross the plate for a 1-0 Bears' advantage.
UCA evened things up in the second, cashing in on Ferrell's lead-off single - one of four Bear hits to start an inning - and a throwing error to push across their first run of the day. Making his first start since April 7, 2012, MSU senior Clay Murphy limited the damage, coming up with a strikeout of Matt Anderson to strand a runner and keep it a 1-1 game.
The Bears, who hit just 13 home runs as a team in 2013, turned to the long ball to build a pair of two run leads in the middle innings. After an Aaron Meyer single with one out in the fourth, Harris delivered his first collegiate hit - a long home run to left - to put MSU on top, 3-1.
After responded with back-to-back two-out hits in the bottom half of the fourth to cut the margin in half, Smith launched a solo shot to left-center field for his second home run in five career games at Bear Stadium.
UCA went right back to work in the fifth, pulling even thanks to singles from Anderson and Treece and an RBI grounder by Zimmerle before Townsend lined a three-bagger into the right-field corner.
Treece led UCA's 10-hit attack, capping a big opening weekend for the Bears' shortstop by going 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. Zach Merciez (0-1) suffered the loss for MSU, giving up both eighth-inning unearned runs despite allowing just one hit over an inning and a third. Murphy completed 4.2 innings, fanning three hitters and surrendering four runs (three earned) on seven hits.
Missouri State returns to action Friday (Feb. 21) when it opens play at the Lobo Invite in Albuquerque, N.M. with a 1 p.m. (Central) game against Northern Illinois.