A White Hall alumnus drew national attention for a defensive play he made in Central Arkansas’ Southland Conference baseball championship win over Southeastern Louisiana.
Senior Ethan Harris made a diving catch at left field Saturday that ranked No. 2 on ESPN SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays” for the day. Harris leapt to his left and slightly arched his body to make a quick snatch of what would otherwise have been a hit for Southeastern Louisiana, whom UCA defeated 4-0.
Harris, the No. 3 hitter batting .274 on the season, went 0 for 3 Saturday, but he walked once and scored a run.
UCA (39-20), which was ranked in the top 25 earlier this season, won five straight elimination games to clinch the Southland Conference championship after losing the tournament opener to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The title-game victory earned the Bears their first ticket to the NCAA tournament, where they will compete in the Starkville (Miss.) Regional and take on host Mississippi State (43-17) in the first round at 7 p.m. Friday.
UCA already took a series from Mississippi State this season in March, losing the first game 4-2, but winning 7-5 in 10 innings and 7-3. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 3 at the time, and the series win helped catapult the Bears into the national rankings.
“I’m really excited about the draw just for the fact that it’s close enough that we’re going to get a lot of fans,” Bears coach Allen Gum said in a press release. “And we’ve been over there before. But I know it will be an even bigger atmosphere this time. We went over there for a weekend series, and it was big, but there no question this will be bigger.”
This marks UCA’s first appearance in a national tournament since 1959, when it played in the NAIA tournament. UCA has been an NCAA Division I school since the 2006-07 school year.
Sophomore pitcher Zach Barr of White Hall has also played a part in the Bears’ season. He’s appeared in 13 games and is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA.
The other half of the Starkville Regional is South Alabama (42-18) and Mercer (43-16). The UCA-MSU and South Alabama-Mercer winners will meet at 7 p.m. Saturday, with the losers meeting at 2 p.m.
The winner of the Starkville Regional will play the winner of the Charlottesville (Va.) Regional (Virginia, Army, Elon and North Carolina-Wilmington) in the Super Regional, for a berth in the College World Series.
Starkville (Miss.) Regional
At Dudy Noble Field, Starkville, Miss.
NOTES: Double-elimination; seeds in parentheses
• (2) South Alabama vs. (3) Mercer, 2 p.m.
• (1) Mississippi State vs. (4) Central Arkansas, 7 p.m.
• Loser’s bracket: First-round losers, 2 p.m.
• Semifinal: First-round winners, 7 p.m.
• Loser’s bracket winner vs. semifinal loser, 2 p.m.
• Championship, 7 p.m.
• Championship game 2 (if necessary), 2 p.m.