SUGAR LAND, Texas — Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rallied from behind late, then turned back a University of Central Arkansas rally Wednesday to take a 5-3 victory in the first round of the 2013 Southland Conference Baseball Tournament on a hot, humid afternoon at Constellation Field.
The seventh-seeded Bears (34-20) trailed 2-0 until the eighth inning when they plated three runs. But the second-seeded Islanders came back and scored three runs in the bottom of the inning. UCA loaded the bases in the top of the ninth inning but A&M-CC’s fifth pitcher of the game — and third of the inning — forced a double play to end it.
The Bears will face Stephen F. Austin at 9 a.m. Thursday in an elimination game. The winner will play again at 9 a.m. Friday against the loser of Thursday afternoon’s ORU-A&M-CC game.
The Bears had beaten the Islanders two out of three during the regular-season series in Corpus Christi, including a win over Wednesday’s starter Trevor Foss, who entered the game with an 8-6 record.
UCA senior righthander Caleb McClanahan went seven innings, allowing just four hits and one earned run, striking out seven with no walks. Junior Bryce Biggerstaff (4-4) came on for the eighth and allowed four hits and three earned runs to get the loss. Reliever O’Shea Dumes (2-2) allowed an unearned run in a shaky eighth inning but still picked up the victory.
"Caleb did a great job, he gave us a chance to win and that’s what we ask," said UCA coach Allen Gum of his first-team All-SLC pitcher. "He went seven strong innings. He was exhausted there at the end for sure. We can’t ask any more than what he gave us today. He did an outstanding job."
The Islanders did not manage a hit off McClanahan until the fourth inning when Zach Taylor reached on an error and second baseman Cody Stephens followed with a two-run home run over the left-field fence for a 2-0 lead. The Bears, who left 11 runners on base, had just four hits off A&M-CC starter Trevor Foss through seven innings but finally got to him in the eighth.
Ethan Harris and Scott Zimmerle drew consecutive walks to start the inning, chasing Foss. Dumes then came on and hit Michael Marietta to load the bases. After a strikeout and foul out to the catcher, Justin Treece hit a two-run single up the middle to tie the game at 2. A failed pickoff attempt on Marietta at second base sent him to third. He then scored on a balk by Dumes for a 3-2 UCA lead.
Biggerstaff, normally UCA’s third starter, entered in the bottom of the inning and got Stafford Brantley to fly out to Harris in left field. He then walked Russell Vaughn and pinch-runner Kyle Danford replaced him at first. Taylor then laced a double to left center but Danford was thrown out at home on a relay from center fielder Jonathan Davis to Treece at short to Marietta at the plate. The Islanders got the momentum right back when Stephens hit an RBI infield single just off the glove of Doug Votolato at first base and pinch-hitter Dominic Lopez singled to center to make it 5-3.
In the ninth, senior Forrestt Allday, who went 2 for 4 on the day, walked to start the inning. Jacob Dorris replaced Dumes and hit Jonathan Davis with a pitch. Allday was then caught trying to steal third before Ethan Harris drew a four-pitch walk that would have loaded the bases. Votolato was also hit by a pitch before Matt Danton came on and got Marietta to hit into a double play to end it.
"We did a good job, we hung in there," said Gum. ‘We have a feeling it would break at some point. It broke at their place and we thought we could break it again. We finally got a big two-out hit and got things going. Then we got a break on the balk. And we’re six inches away from getting the third out in the eighth. That’s how close it was.
"It was a close play at first, it went off Doug’s glove, (second baseman) Blake (Marchal) stayed with the play. He got it over there and he was barely safe. That tied it up and they kind of went on from there. Then we had a chance at the end and we just had a couple of mistakes that cost us. They just outplayed us at the end, they won one more pitch than we did today.’
Allday was the only UCA player with multiple hits, while Stephens went 2 for 4 with 3 RBI for the Islanders, who will face Oral Roberts at 4 p.m. Thursday.