THIBODAUX, La. _ A strong eight innings from sophomore starter Connor Gilmore allowed the University of Central Arkansas Bears to survive a ninth-inning rally by the Nicholls Colonels and record a 4-3 victory at Ray E. Didier Field on Sunday afternoon.

The Colonels, in first place in the Southland Conference, loaded the bases against UCA reliever Connor McClain of Conway and scored once before freshman right fielder Carson Dowdle ran down a fly ball for the final out to preserve the win. UCA (18-15, 7-8) took the lead for good with a three-run fourth inning. Gilmore, a sophomore from Little Rock, allowed just four hits and one unearned run while striking out six.

McClain relieved Gilmore to start the ninth and recorded a quick out on a fly ball. But Nicholls pinch-hitter Seth Stephens doubled to right and pinc- hitter Justin Smith and Phillip Lyons both walked to load the bases. Leo Vargas was then hit by a pitch to cut the lead to 4-3 before Keith Cormier flied out to Dowdle to end it.

After falling behind 1-0 in the bottom of the first, the Bears tied it with run in the third on Doug Votolato's double and Chris Townsend's RBI single up the middle. UCA put up three more in the fourth inning against Nicholls' reliever Zach Thiac. Scott Zimmerle had an RBI ground out and Matt Anderson added a two-run single for the 4-1 lead.

  UCA finished with only six hits off a quartet of Nicholls pitchers and committed two errors. Gilmore and McClain combined to allow just five hits on the day and stranded nine Colonels' base runners. Gilmore improved to 3-1 while McClain picked up his first save of the season.

    UCA hosts McNeese State in another SLC series beginning Thursday night at Bear Stadium.