Muleriders deny Boll Weevils again

ENID, Okla. — Arkansas-Monticello has waited 21 years to win another baseball championship, and the Boll Weevils put themselves in position to finally end the drought with a spot in Tuesday’s Great American Conference title game.

But Southern Arkansas’ bats were too warm for UAM to cool off.

Home runs by Carver Rademacher and Jackson McCurdy in the late innings gave the Muleriders more than enough run support, and SAU won its fifth conference championship in the last six years, 6-2 over UAM, at David Allen Memorial Ballpark.

UAM (36-18), which has never won a baseball conference championship as a Division II school, lost in the GAC final for the second straight year. But this time, the defeat is not expected to end the Boll Weevils’ season.

The top six teams in each region after all the conference championships will advance to the NCAA playoffs. SAU (38-17), ranked No. 4 in the Central Region, grabbed the automatic berth by virtue of the GAC title, but No. 3 UAM likely will not slip very far in the rankings, if at all. The NCAA field will be announced at 9 p.m. Sunday on, and the tournament will begin May 15.

Yumezo Densaki (5-3) threw a complete-game victory, surrendering two runs off six hits with six strikeouts and two walks. But he didn’t get the necessary run support until late in the game.

Josh Rodriguez drove in a run on a sixth-inning groundout to tie the game at 2. Rademacher launched his two-run homer in the seventh, and McCurdy capped off the game with a solo shot in the ninth.

The Weevils led 2-1 through four innings on the strength of a Bronson Gillam RBI single in the first inning and hit batsman with bases loaded in the fourth.

Jeff Harvill (2-2) gave up three runs off one hit in 1 1/3 innings of work, suffering the loss. He was the third of five UAM pitchers in the game, as Kade Garlington led things off with on earned run on three hits and one strikeout in 3 2/3 innings.

For UAM, Ray Johnson, Travis Steinke and Evan Comeau were named to the all-tournament team. Comeau was the Weevils’ only multiple hitter Tuesday, going 2 for 4.

SAU defeated Harding 4-3 earlier Tuesday to set up the winner-take-all final. Both the Muleriders and Weevils had a previous loss in the double-elimination tournament.

UAM went 3-2 in the tournament, beating Southwestern Oklahoma State on Saturday, losing to Harding on Sunday and dispatching Ouachita Baptist and Harding on Monday.

The Weevils are expected to be selected for their first NCAA regional since beginning play in Division II in 1996. Their most recent championships came in 1993, when they won the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference and NAIA district titles.

The Muleriders are the only team to win the GAC tournament title since the conference began play in 2012. They also won the 2009 and 2011 Gulf South Conference titles, and they will play in their seventh straight NCAA regional.