SUGAR LAND, Texas — The University of Central Arkansas Bears outscored Stephen F. Austin 6-0 over the final four innings Thursday to grab a 7-3 victory and stay alive in the 2013 Southland Conference Baseball Tournament at Constellation Field.
The Bears (35-20), who tied their school record for victories and won their first NCAA Division I postseason game, got a solid four-inning relief appearance from freshman Blake Clayton and three RBI from senior second baseman Blake Marchal. Clayton, a lefthander from El Dorado, threw two-hit, scoreless baseball in relief of senior Jeffery Enloe, striking out three and walking none.
"Jeff (Enloe) did a good job hanging in there and then Blake Clayton came in there and did an outstanding job,’ said UCA coach Allen Gum. "And we got the lead there late and could take some pressure off Blake a little. That was big."
UCA faces another elimination game at 9 a.m. Friday against either Texas A&M-Corpus Christi or Oral Roberts.
The Bears, who lost 5-3 to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the tournament opener on Wednesday, while leaving 11 runners on base, pounded out 12 hits Thursday to overcome a 3-1 deficit after five innings.
"We haven’t had a good bounce or a good hop or found a line it seems like for two weeks, said Gum. "And we found that line down the right-field line and got that bounce on the swinging bunt. Just the breaks we needed because we haven’t had any in a couple of weeks. We’ve been getting runners on, and we did that yesterday against Corpus Christi. We just haven’t had the big hit.
"Sometimes it’s just finding the line, finding the right hop. The good thing is our guys kept fighting to get on base. We have to get on base first before we can get a break. We just held in there and kept fighting. I’m proud of our guys, because they didn’t stop, they kept fighting."
The Bears plated the first run of the game in the bottom of the first when junior Jonathan Davis doubled and scored on Marchal’s single up the middle.
Enloe, who went five innings, striking out four, pitched out of a jam in the fourth after SFA loaded the bases with a pair of hits and an error. But SFA’s Mackenzie Handel tried to score on a wild pitch and UCA catcher Michael Marietta retrieved the ball and threw to Enloe for the tag. Enloe then finished off the inning with a strikeout of pinch-hitter Jordon Lenaburg.
The Lumberjacks went ahead 3-1 in the fifth inning on Hunter Dozier’s RBI single and Handel’s sacrifice fly.
The Bears pulled to within 3-2 in the sixth when Ethan Harris walked, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on Marietta’s RBI single to left.
After Clayton threw consecutive scoreless innings, the Bears exploded for four runs in the bottom of the seventh. Allday started it with a one-out double to left center that brought on SFA closer Brett Higginbotham, who has nine saves on the season and threw four scoreless innings against the Bears during the regular season series two weeks ago in Conway. He promptly hit Jonathan Davis and Ethan Harris followed with an infield single to shortstop to load the bases.
Marchal stroked a double that fell just inside the right-field foul line to give the Bears a 4-2 lead, scoring Allday and Davis. Marietta then singled to third base for an RBI and a throwing error also allowed Marchal to come in to make it 6-3.
"Their starter, (Justin) Choate threw so well,’ said Gum. "We were glad to see him get out of there. He was throwing really hard, down hill. Then the guy they brought in, the sidearm guy (Higginbotham), really tore us up at our place. He did a great job there. He’s been tough on us but we just hung in there and got a break is what we did."
The Bears padded the lead in the eighth when Davis’ groundout scored Treece, who had a base hit to lead off the inning. Clayton, tying his longest outing of the season, set the Lumberjacks down in order in the ninth to improve to 3-1.
"Our backs were against the wall," said Allday, a first-team All-SLC selection who went 2 for 5. "And we’ve been having some tough luck lately, getting guys on and getting runners in scoring position, and just not coming through with that big hit. We basically got a little bit of luck, some infield singles and they gave us a couple of bases there at the end. That was huge.’
Marchal, Allday, Marietta, Zimmerle and Treece had two hits each as the Bears finished with 12 hits against four SFA pitchers. Dozier, the SLC Player of the Year, had two hits and two RBIs for the Lumberjacks.