Free bags make Bears’ night

Arkansas-Pine Bluff baseball coach Carlos James was counting on a victory over 23rd-ranked Central Arkansas to help his program move forward.

But thanks to two bad innings, it wasn’t the Golden Lions’ night.

In a 6-1 UCA victory Tuesday night at Taylor Field, none of UCA’s runs came off hits. Two walks and hit batsman in the second inning produced three runs. In the seventh, runs were plated on a passed ball, fielder’s choice and flyout.

“Trying to move this program forward, that don’t supposed to happen,” James said.

Each team had five hits on the evening, and it was hits that put runners on for the Bears (18-3). Only UAPB’s Isias Alcantar had more than one hit in the game, going 2 for 4.

Starter Kyle Schwartz struggled in the two costly innings on the mound. He was chased after giving up the last run with no outs in the seventh, charged with five earned runs on four hits. He struck out five and walked five.

Grant Glass held UCA to no runs on one hit, walked one and fanned two the rest of the way. Schwartz and Glass combined to hit three batters.

“When you’re playing the number-23 team in the country, you can’t give them 10 free bags,” James said. “I think they ended up having six runs on five hits. You can’t do that and give yourself a chance to win.”

The Bears used 10 pitchers, two of which were used in the sixth inning when the Lions (5-15) scored their only run. It’s common for the Bears to use one pitcher per inning in a midweek game.

“We want to get our guys some work,” UCA coach Allen Gum said. “We feel really good about our bullpen, and more times you get them on the mound, it’s more about appearances than it is about innings.”

Zach Barr, a sophomore from White Hall, pitched a perfect first inning. Connor Gilmore was credited with the win.

Another White Hall alumnus, senior Ethan Harris, went 0 for 4 but scored a run and walked once.

UAPB was held hitless until the fourth when Kirby Campbell and Mike Wieland both singled. UCA center fielder Jonathan Davis then made a tumbling catch for the third out, stranding runners at first and second.

Rafael Soto hit a two-out single to score Alcantar in the sixth, pulling the Lions within 3-1. But the Bears built on that lead with the help of a defensive mistake by UAPB.

Third baseman Patrick Phillips missed a double play opportunity when he pulled the ball out of his glove before tagging a runner and then made an errant throw to first. A run scored on the error with no outs, and another crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly for the second out.

The victory is the sixth in the last seven games for the Bears, who have series victories over Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi to their credit. Success for UCA starts on the mound, Gum said.

“We pitch to our defense, and our defense has been really sound,” he said. “We’ve been good at manufacturing runs, like tonight, getting some guys on, laying down a bunt, making things happen. We’ve just been able to do it at the right time.”

The Lions, on the other hand, have been reeling as of late with five losses in a row. They’ve given up six or more runs in six of their last seven games.

“This was a big moment for our program,” James said. “You had a lot of local kids out, and I don’t think we showed well at all. And that hurts you when you’re talking about recruiting kids from your own city because they’re the most critical of your program.”

UAPB will resume SWAC this weekend with a three-game series at Texas Southern. A doubleheader will start at 1 p.m. Saturday, with a single game at 1 p.m. Sunday to follow.

UAPB will visit Alcorn State next Wednesday in a non-SWAC game before hosting Prairie View in a series.