University of Central Arkansas sophomore Connor Gilmore made the most of his first  Friday night start, and against a Top 25 Southland Conference team.

Gilmore tossed a complete game to carry the University of Central Arkansas Bears to a 9-7 victory over the 16th-ranked Sam Houston State Bearkats in the series opener at Bear Stadium.

Gilmore (2-0) allowed 10 hits and six earned runs and threw 132 pitches in his second consecutive complete-game victory. The righthander from Little Rock was bumped up from his normal Saturday start to replace injured senior Bryce Biggerstaff.

The Bears tagged Bearkats’ All-SLC starter Tyler Eppler for eight hits and eight earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. Eppler entered with a 4-1 record and a 2.03 earned-run average. SHSU was ranked No. 1 in  pitching and hitting in the SLC entering the weekend.

Sam Houston put up a pair of runs in the first inning but UCA answered with four in the bottom of the frame. Justin Treece had a two-run single up the middle and  Scott Zimmerle added a two-run double to the gap in right center for a 4-2 lead.

The Bearkats (16-6, 3-1) got three more runs in the third but the Bears answered again, tying it at 5-5 on Wesley Hoover’s solo home run, his second in as many games this week.  SHSU took the lead in the fourth with a single run but UCA tied it again on a Doug Votolato RBI single to left that scored Tyler Langley, who was hit by a pitch and stole second.

UCA (12-8, 2-2) took the lead for good with a pair of runs in the sixth inning, chasing Eppler in the process. Treece walked and stole second, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. After Charles Deckard’s walk, Nick Rougeau’s bunt single scored Treece. Deckard eventually scored on Langley’s groundout to short.

Votolato and Rougeau were both 2 for 4 with an RBI apiece. SHSU designated hitter Ryan O’Hearn was 2 for 5 with 3 RBI, including a two-run home run in the third.
  Because of a rainy weather forecast, Game 2 of the series has been moved up to 2 p.m. Saturday.