ENID, Okla. — Arkansas-Monticello just may have its first NCAA Division II baseball regional berth well in hand.
More immediately, the Boll Weevils overcame a two-game swing in the loser’s bracket to make their second straight Great American Conference championship game.
Bronson Gillam smacked a grand slam and Travis Steinke followed with a solo shot to make up a five-run sixth inning that propelled the Weevils to a 7-1 victory over Harding on Monday evening. With the win, UAM avenged a 5-0 loss to Harding in Sunday’s winner’s bracket semifinal and will await the winner of today’s loser’s bracket final between Harding and Southern Arkansas. SAU, ranked No. 4 in the Central Region, eliminated No. 1-ranked and GAC regular-season champion Arkansas Tech 6-5 Monday.
The top six teams in each region after the conference tournaments will qualify for the NCAA tournament. The field will be announced May 11, and hosting rights for each regional usually goes to the top-seeded team.
Minnesota State-Mankato, the second seed, begins its run in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament later this week. The Mavericks have won 17 straight games.
The Weevils (36-14), who have never won a conference championship since going Division II in 1996, stayed alive in the tournament with a 12-6 come-from-behind win over Ouachita Baptist earlier Monday. With that win, they set a school record for victories in a season, surpassing the 2005 team.
Against Harding, Steinke and Evan Comeau each had two hits to lead UAM. Gillam had the four RBIs on his slam, and Ben Agredano and Tyler Caruthers each lined a double.
Harding took a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI single and kept UAM off the scoreboard until Gillam’s homer. UAM added two runs in the seventh on a sacrifice groundout by Alex Lange and Agredano double.
Logan Johnson (5-2) held the Bisons (28-23) to one earned run on three hits and struck out two in six innings, needing the slam to put him in position for the win. Woodlawn graduate Gavin Johnston allowed only three hits and struck out three in the final three innings for his second save of the season.
Cameron Walker (3-7) allowed five earned runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings to suffer the loss. No Bison had more than one hit.
UAM outhit Harding 8-6 and left five on base to the Bisons’ seven.
Harding, which was 2-0 in the tournament before Monday evening, will try to eliminate an SAU team that defeated UAM in last year’s GAC final. The Bisons on Sunday scored two runs in the eighth inning and three in the ninth to beat UAM.
UAM 12, Ouachita Baptist 6
ENID, Okla. — UAM stormed back with six runs in the sixth inning to overcome a 6-3 deficit and finished with 19 hits to Ouachita’s 12 in an elimination game.
Hitters in the bottom four holes of the Weevils’ lineup accounted for 11 of the 19 hits. Nine-hole hitter Comeau went 4 for 5 with a personal-best four RBIs. Steinke, the No. 6 hitter was 3 for 5, and D’Marco Poindexter and Caruthers, the Nos. 7 and 8 batters, each went 2 for 4.
Ray Johnson smacked a solo home run in the fifth inning as part of a 3-for-5 game with three RBIs.
Kregg Snook (5-1) kept the Tigers (26-28) scoreless in the final 3 2/3 innings to win. It was the fourth time in UAM’s last four wins Snook was the pitcher of record.
Davis Ward (10-4) was tattooed with six runs on seven its in two innings of relief, overshadowing a 4-for-5 game by Will Wallace and 3-for-4 outing by Landon Moore.