Photographs by Stephen B. Thornton
Central Arkansas shortstop Brooks Balisterri was one of four UCA players to have two hits Tuesday in the Bears’ 5-1 victory over the UALR Trojans at Gary Hogan Field in Little Rock. Balisterri finished 2 for 5 with 1 RBI.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
The water showered down from the bullpen cooler, dousing the new winningest baseball coach in University of Central Arkansas history.
Allen Gum once thought such a career was impossible.
"Never thought I'd ever coach college," said Gum, 47, who earned his 210th career victory when the Bears beat the UALR Trojans 5-1 at Gary Hogan Field in Little Rock on Tuesday night. "I thought I'd be coaching high school baseball my whole life."
Gum coached Batesville High to two Class AAAA state runner-up seasons in 2002 and 2003 before Southern Arkansas University hired him as an assistant baseball coach.
"I would have been content in doing that," Gum said. "But life circumstances had me at Southern Arkansas, then here, and I'm thankful for [UCA Athletic Director] Brad Teague in giving me the opportunity for that."
Gum (210-177) passed his predecessor, Doug Clark, who was 209-213-1 from 2003-2010.
The 210th victory looked probable when the Bears went up 4-0 after the fourth inning. Sophomore first baseman Hunter Strong hit an RBI single in the first, then scored when senior shortstop Brooks Balisterri reached on a fielder's choice. UCA scored runs on singles in the third and fourth inning, including one by sophomore catcher William Hancock, who went 2 for 5 with 2 RBI.
UCA left-hander Will Brand earned the victory, pitching 8 innings with 1 earned run and 2 strikeouts.
"It's a big deal to be a part of [Gum's milestone]," said Hancock, who is batting .246 with 32 RBI. "Great coach, and great for it to be this game."
UCA took the rubber match of its three games against UALR this season. The Bears won 12-3 on March 14 but lost 11-6 April 25.
The Bears recovered from last weekend's hitting struggles, when they were swept in three games by Southeastern Louisiana after scoring their least amount of runs in a series since March.
UCA (29-23, 15-12) is tied for fifth in the Southland Conference standings with Lamar, and the Bears' series against Nicholls State (28-25, 14-13) this weekend will decide whether they will be one of the eight teams to qualify for next week's Southland Conference Tournament in Sugar Land, Texas.
Hancock said UCA's 11 hits against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (21-30) restored confidence.
"It was big time," Hancock said. "We got some momentum back, there's no doubt about it."
"I hope we got back on track," Gum said, "and that it will get us going."
Two games separate five teams -- including UCA -- in the Southland who are competing for the final four tournament spots, which makes for a volatile weekend.
"You can go up five spots or go down five spots," Gum said. "It's so tough, and that speaks to our conference. It could even be a six-way tie. I love the Southland Conference, but it doesn't help me sleep at night."
Gum isn't concerned about the seeding: The Bears were the seventh seed going into the 2013 tournament, which they won.
"That's the way this conference is," Gum said.
ARKANSAS STATE 5,
Bryan Ayers and Tyler Zuber combined for a five-hit shutout Tuesday as Arkansas State University (24-26) beat the University of Mississippi (31-22) in front of a record crowd of 1,188 at Tomlinson Stadium in Jonesboro.
Ayers (3-5) scattered 4 hits over 7 innings with 4 strikeouts and 1 walk. He gave up just one extra-base hit and threw 58 of his 91 pitches for strikes. The shutout was the third of the season for Arkansas State and its second in the past three games.
The Red Wolves jumped on the Rebels early, scoring three runs in the first inning on an RBI single by Jeremy Brown, an RBI double by Alex Howard and a sacrifice fly by Jake Bakamus. Howard, who finished 3 for 5 with 2 RBI, added an RBI single up the middle in the third inning and Brown scored in the eighth inning on Drew Tipton’s sacrifice fly.
The record crowd of 1,188 broke the previous record of 1,143, which was set on May 13, 2014, and also came against the Rebels. It was the fifth time a crowd of more than 1,000 has seen a game at Tomlinson Stadium.
Sports on 05/17/2017
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