SUGAR LAND, Texas – No. 3 Southeastern Louisiana became the first squad to score on No. 2 Central Arkansas in the Southland Conference Tournament, topping the Bears 9-3 Thursday.

Senior center fielder Bryce Steckler, who began the day with two home runs to his name in 2019, now has five after a two-homer performance in the win.

The Lions pounced on a Central Arkansas error in the opening frame as Cody Grosse reached on a dropped fly ball by left fielder Cole Fiori and scored two batters later by way of a Kyle Schimpf single.

However, the Bears avenged the mistake by taking advantage of SLU’s own mishap – a wild pitch with runners on second and third allowing Beau Orlando to cross home plate. After Trey Shaffer pegged Fiori, Tanner Wiley scored on a near double play ball to take a 2-1 lead.

In the following half inning, Steckler left Constellation Field for the second time of the day with a solo shot to left that evened the score at 2-all.

The round-tripper marked the first earned run allowed by UCA in the tournament.

Southeastern Louisiana exploded for six runs to regain the lead in the top of the sixth on RBI singles from Nathan Pilutti and Nick Ray, a run-scoring double off the bat of Conner Manola and Steckler’s second long ball of the game.

Back-to-back two-out base knocks loaded the bases for the Bears in the home-half of the sixth, but Tassin fanned Ragan for the final out to bring UCA’s number of men left on base to nine.

SLU’s bullpen didn’t allow a hit the rest of the way.

The Lions pushed the lead to seven in the final inning after Steckler drew a hit-by-pitch, stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher and scored on a Preston Faulkner sac fly.

Southeastern Louisiana and Central Arkansas will face off once again on Saturday with the winner advancing to Saturday’s championship game.

If McNeese wins Thursday’s nightcap, the game will be at 1 p.m. CT. If Incarnate Word defeats McNeese, the game will start at 9 a.m.