Nicholls State pitcher Cole Stapler shut down the University of Central Arkansas Bears on Thursday night in a 5-0 victory in their Southland Conference series opener at Bear Stadium.

Stapler (7-6) tossed a complete-game, four-hit shutout, tying his career high with 10 strikeouts and walking just two batters.

UCA’s best chance against the righthander came in the seventh inning when they got a two-out single up the middle by Brooks Balisterri and followed that with a walk to William Hancock. But Stapler got a ground ball fielder’s choice to end the threat.

The Bears also got their fourth hit of the night in the ninth inning, a double to the right-center gap by junior designated hitter Justin McCarty. Balisterri then lined out to second base to end the game. The shutout loss was the first for the Bears since April 14 against Dallas Baptist.

The Colonels (29-25, 15-13) finished with 11 hits, all off UCA starter Tyler Gray (5-6), who allowed four earned runs, struck out three and walked one. Senior Jacob Murray pitched a perfect eighth and ninth, striking out one batter.

The Bears (29-24, 15-13) entered the game tied with Lamar for fiifth in the SLC standings, with a one-game lead on the Colonels. The teams, now tied at 15-13, are trying for one of eight spots in next week’s SLC Tournament at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas.