The UCA Bears (15-17, 8-7 SLC) finished a stellar week of baseball with a series victory over McNeese State (16-16, 4-8 SLC) — the teams split a doubleheader April 5 and the Bears won 5-1 April 6 — riding the momentum from a victory earlier in the week over No. 23 ranked Oklahoma State University (19-11, 6-3 BIG12).
The series gave the Bears their fourth series victory of the season and moves them to eighth in the Southland Conference.
In the final game of the series, the Bears jumped ahead of the Cowboys quickly, scoring all 5 of their runs before the fifth inning and capitalizing on a some errors McNeese made as well as a two-run double designated hitter junior Marco Navarro earned in the fourth.
“If we can get runs early on, like we did today, I have confidence in our guys,” junior third baseman Beau Orlando said. “Guys are looking a lot more confident at the plate [and] we’re having better at-bats.”
Defensively, the Bears kept McNeese at bay through junior starter Brad Verel and sophomore reliever Gavin Stone’s solid pitching, who combined for 13 strikeouts. The Cowboys avoided a shutout thanks to senior Shane Selman’s single home run in the sixth.
“Verel did a tremendous job — he did a great job against Oklahoma State also — he’s just able to throw three pitches for a strike,” head coach Allen Gum said regarding his starter. “About the time you feel like [the opponent] is on one, he can throw another one, he can throw it for a strike.”
During the previous day’s doubleheader, the Bears won their first contest 4-2 with senior Cody Davenport pitching the complete game. Davenport allowed only 2 runs on seven hits, keeping McNeese from scoring in the last seven innings of the game. Offensively, the Bears had a big fourth inning, earning 3 runs off RBIs from senior infielder Tyler Smith and freshman outfielders Kolby Johnson and Bryce Dodd.
The Bears lost in the nightcap game 2-1, with junior Cowboy Jonathan Ellison holding the Bears to 1 run on six hits, leaving seven runners stranded for the game.
Earlier in the week, the Bears traveled to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to face off against the No. 23 OSU Cowboys. The Bears offense caught fire during the fourth, earning 7 runs — all earned with two outs in the inning.
Gum said that focus led to the big inning and later the victory over the OSU Cowboys.
“Our offensive hitters really linked together and focused on quality at-bats instead of worrying about everything else. Orlando capped it off with a 3 run homer.
It was a bunch of guys linking a lot of things together, and they’ve been working hard on that, and it paid off that night,” Gum said.
Orlando, whose 3-run homer helped propel the Bears past OSU, said beating the ranked Cowboys made him feel great.
“Growing up, you always hear about teams like Oklahoma State, and when you get an opportunity to play a team like that — and especially to play well and beat those guys when they’re having such a good season — it definitely boosts our confidence and definitely tells us, ‘You know what? We can play with anybody else,’” Orlando said.
The Bears next competition is April 9 against Arkansas State, followed by a three-game series against Tennessee Tech on April 12-14.