TULSA — The University of Central Arkansas Bears will take an 18-3 record and a Top 25 national ranking into their opening Southland Conference series this weekend at Oral Roberts.
The Bears, who have won six of their past seven games, face a Golden Eagles team that was picked third in the SLC preseason polls but has struggled so far this season. ORU is just 5-15 overall and has lost 11 consecutive games. "We know what we can expect at Oral Roberts this weekend," said UCA coach Allen Gum. "They are always a tough program, year in and year out. They are a (NCAA) regional team nearly every year. They have a couple of really good pitchers and they play solid baseball.
"This entire conference this season is going to be tough. Baseball in the Southland is very good. You have to play well every weekend to compete in this league."
The Bears, ranked in five national polls this week for the first time since moving to NCAA Division I in 2007, have been getting quality pitching from their three weekend starters, and hope to continue that this weekend. Senior righthander Caleb McClanahan, first up at 4 p.m. Friday, is 4-1 with a 1.78 earned-run average and just one walk in 35.1 innings.
Saturday’s starter, senior lefty Jeffery Enloe, is 4-0 with a 2.36 ERA, with a team-high 33 strikeouts. Junior righthander Bryce Biggerstaff is 2-1 with a 2.10 and owns a no-hitter against Jackson State back on Feb. 24. He is a two-time SLC Pitcher of the Week already this season.
UCA’s offense has gotten contributions from up and down the lineup. Senior Forrestt Allday, a two-time SLC Hitter of the Week, is the leading hitter at .415 and leads the conference in RBIs (21), runs scored (24), on-base percentage (.520) and is second in hits.
Michael Marietta is tied with Allday for the SLC lead in RBIs and is tied for first in doubles with nine. Blake Marchal leads the league in stolen bases (11 of 13) and is third in walks. J Scott Zimmerle is second in hitting on the team at .333.
UCA leads the SLC and the nation by a large margin in walks with 156. The next closest SLC team has 95 base on balls. The Bears are also second in the country in hit by pitch (50) and third in sacrifice bunts (29). UCA is second in on-base percentage (.444) and third in walks allowed by nine innings (2.04).
The Bears have already taken a series from Top 5 Mississippi State and from Southern Miss over the past three weeks, and beat Kansas and Wichita State in single games earlier in the season. The lone losses were to MSU, Southern Miss and then-No. 2 Vanderbilt, all on the road.
Game times at ORU’s J.L. Johnson Stadium are 4 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.