SUGAR LAND, Texas — The University of Central Arkansas Bears will make their second straight appearance in the Southland Conference Baseball Tournament on Wednesday, facing the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders in first-round action.
The seventh-seeded Bears and second-seeded Islanders will meet at noon at Constellation Field, home of the Sugar Land Skeeters. The winner advances to face the winner of the Stephen F. Austin-Oral Roberts game at 4 p.m. Thursday. The loser will face the SFA-ORU loser at 9 a.m. Thursday in the double-elimination tournament.
The Bears (34-19) are one victory away from tying the school record of 35 set in 1998 while at the NCAA Division II level. UCA took two out of three games from A&M-CC during the regular season on the road in Corpus Christi. The Islanders lead the overall series 10-9-2.
Senior righthander Caleb McClanahan (9-5) will get the start for the Bears. McClanahan, from Wynne, is second in the SLC in earned-run average (2.18) and is tied for first in wins. He is seventh in the nation in walks allowed per nine innings (0.8) and is 11th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.8). His nine wins are third-best in school history.
McClanahan leads a pitching staff that is second in the country in walks allowed (1.9) and eighth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.05). UCA’s pitchers have walked just 103 batters in 53 games, while UCA’s batters have drawn a school-record 314 walks to lead the nation. The old mark was 268 set last season. UCA has also been hit by a pitch a school-record 109 times.
The Bears have also broken the school record for sacrifices bunts with 82 this season. The direct result of all those category highs is an on-base percentage of .404, good for first in the SLC and 13th in the nation.
The Islanders, one of the top hitting teams in the SLC, will start right-handed senior Trevor Foss on the mound Thursday. Foss, a third-team All-SLC selection, is 8-6 with a 3.13 ERA. UCA beat Foss and the Islanders 7-2 in the series opener back on April 19. scoring five runs on eight hits. Senior third baseman Garrett Brown went 3 for 5 with three RBI, while junior first baseman Scott Zimmerle was 2 for 4 with an RBI.
The Bears stole five bases in the game, with Jonathan Davis and Forrestt Allday getting two each. Davis, who has tied the school record for hit by pitch (22), is second in the SLC in stolen bases (22 of 26) behind teammate Blake Marchal (24 of 28). Allday is next at 15 of 17.
Allday and McClanahan were both first-team All-SLC selections on Monday, while senior catcher Michael Marietta was a second-team choice and Davis was on the third team. Marchal, senior pitcher Jeffery Enloe and junior pitcher Bryce Biggerstaff were honorable mentions.