Big bats carry No. 1 Razorbacks past Bears

FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Central Arkansas Bears went toe to toe with the No. 1 team in the nation for as long as they could Tuesday night before Arkansas’ big bats carried the Razorbacks to a 21-8 victory in front of a crowd of 5,735 at Baum-Walker Stadium.

The No. 1 Razorbacks (20-3) hit five home runs and totaled 11 extra-base hits in taming the Bears in the historic first meeting between the programs since 1948. Arkansas, which leads the nation in home runs with 45, hit a pair of them in a seven-run fourth inning that put the Bears in an early hole. Arkansas scored at least one run in each of the first six innings, including another seven-run frame in the sixth. 

Junior Connor Emmet (#19) celebrates after hitting a home run against the Razorbacks Tuesday night.

Coming off a nine-hour road trip home from a Southland Conference series at UIW last weekend, and with another conference series looming today, the Bears sent six pitchers to the mound against the potent UA lineup. Junior right hander Logan Gilbertson was the most effective, going the final three innings for the Bears, striking out four and allowing just one unearned run.

The Bears, playing nine games in nine days, were sharp at the plate early, including a leadoff home run on the second pitch of the game by UCA junior right fielder Connor Emmet against UA starter Kole Ramage. UCA scored single runs in the first three innings and were tied 3-3 through 2 1/2 innings. But Arkansas’ big bats put up three runs in the third and added seven more in the fourth to push the Hogs’ lead to 13-3. Arkansas had a pair of home runs, a triple and a double in the inning.

But UCA, which lost to fourth-ranked Ole Miss 5-2 March 23, battled back with four runs in the top of the fifth after Arkansas replaced Ramage in favor of Caleb Bolden. Coby Potvin drew a one-out walk and Beau Orlando and Benny Ayala were both hit by a pitch to load the bases. That set up a line drive to right field by A.J. Mendolia that brought in Potvin. After a Drew Sturgeon walk, Kolby Johnson greeted UA reliever Elijah Trest with a three-run double off the very top of the right field wall, closing the gap to 13-7,

The Razorbacks hit their fifth home run of the night in the bottom of the inning, a solo shot by Robert Moore, but UCA responded again with an RBI base hit by Mendolia, his third hit and third RBI of the night, to make it 14-8. But Arkansas flexed its muscle again in the sixth when Moore tagged a three-run double, hitting for the cycle for the night.

Mendolia, a freshman designated hitter from Fort Worth, finished 4 for 4 with three RBI. Johnson went 2 for 5 with three runs batted in. Emmet and Beau Orlando both scored a pair of runs for the Bears. Moore led Arkansas, going 4 for 4, with 6 RBI and 4 runs scored. Matt Goodheart and Ethan Battles had three hits apiece.

The Bears finally return home today after 10 consecutive road games, starting a four-game SLC series with Sam Houston at 6 p.m. at Bear Stadium. The series continues with a doubleheader at 1 and 4 p.m. Friday, followed by the series finale at 1 p.m. Saturday.