Prior to the season starting in February, the University of Central Arkansas were selected to finish fourth in the Southland Conference.
However, the Bears won eight of 10 Southland Conference series’ this season, winning a program-high 19 conference wins since moving to the SLC in 2007.
Thus, UCA earned the No. 2 seed in the SLC Tournament, which is a double elimination tournament and starts Wednesday in Sugar Land, Texas.
Perhaps the season highlight for the Bears was a series sweep over the conference’s No. 1 seed Sam Houston State University from April 19 and 20 at Bear Stadium.
UCA outscored the Bearkats 16-4 throughout the home series.
After winning their series against Lamar in the final weekend, the Bears tied Southeastern Louisiana for second in the conference.
But, a 2-1 series win over the Lions helped UCA lock up the No. 2 while SLU now has the No. 3 seed.
Now, the Bears will face No. 7 seed and last year’s tournament winner Northwestern State at noon Wednesday in Sugar Land.
Those two teams did not meet in the regular season.
UCA heads into the tournament with one of the better starting pitchers in the league in senior Cody Davenport, who sports a 6-4 record with a 2.19 ERA.
He has thrown three complete games, giving up 34 runs, 23 earned, striking out 82, walking 20 and hitting four batters in 94.2 innings of work.
Junior Josh Ragan leads the UCA offense with a .290 batting average, 16 doubles, four home runs, 31 RBI, a .356 on-base percentage, a .446 slugging percentage.
He has also struck out 41 times, walked 14 and was hit by a pitch eight times.
The no. 2 seed is the highest SLC Tournament seeding ever for UCA, who won the tournament as the No. 7 seed in 2013.
Since then, the Bears have reached the SLC Tournament championship game twice, ultimately being on the losing end.
Should UCA win, it will play no. 3 seed SLU or No. 6 seed Stephen F. Austin at 4 p.m. Friday.
The tournament championship will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday.