The University of Central Arkansas Bears held off the New Orleans Privateers 11-8 on Friday night at First NBC Ballpark to earn their third straight postseason berth.
UCA (28-21, 16-13) won its fifth straight game and will be either the seventh or eighth seed for next week’s Southland Conference Tournament to be held at Bear Stadium. UCA won the tournament as the seventh seed a year ago. The regular-season finale is set for 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Bears got three hits each from senior Doug Votolato and sophomores Chris Townsend and Tyler Langley, and three RBI from Townsend, to down the Privateers (11-37, 2-27) for the second consecutive day. New Orleans actually out-hit UCA 15-12 but a pair of pitchers allowed 11 earned runs.
UCA took an early 1-0 lead when Votolato led off the game with a triple and scored on Nate Ferrell’s sacrifice fly. But the Privateers came back strong with four runs in the bottom of the inning against UCA starter Chris Caudle to take a 4-1 lead.
The Bears tied it with a three-run third inning, including a two-run single by Townsend, and regained the lead for good with five more runs in the fifth. Ferrell had an RBI double down the left-field line, Townsend and Langley had RBI base hits and Scott Zimmerle added a sacrifice fly. Catcher Charles Deckard finished off the five-run inning with an RBI single to center that scored Langley.
The Privateers got one run back in the eighth but the Bears added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth when Wesley Hoover walked and Townsend doubled. Both runners eventually scored on wild pitches for the 11-8 margin. Connor McClain relieved Josh Markel with two on and two outs in the bottom of the inning and recorded the final out for his second save.
Caudle got the victory to improve top 7-4 in his first season with the Bears. Markel struck out five in three innings of relief. Townsend finished with 3 RBI and 3 runs scored, while Votolato also scored three times.
UCA’s 16 conference victories are the most since joining the SLC in 2007. The Bears will open tournament play at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Bear Stadium.
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