UCA athlete named ASUN Pitcher of the Year

CONWAY — University of Central Arkansas Bears graduate Jesse Barker was named the Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Year on Monday.

Barker, a righthander from Benton, Ark., is UCA’s second pitcher to earn the honor in three seasons in the ASUN. Tyler Cleveland was the pitcher of the year in 2022.

Jesse Barker photo by Braeden Botts

Barker leads the ASUN in strikeouts (110) and innings pitched (97.2), and is second in opposing batting average (.215) and fifth in earned-run average (3.78). His strikeout total ranks 13th in the nation among Division I pitchers.

Barker struck out a career-high 14 batters against Eastern Kentucky on March 15, and had double-figure strikeouts (10, 11) in two other games. He topped the 100-pitch count 11 times and even earned save against ASUN tri-champion Austin Peay the day after his normal Friday start, striking out the final two batters of the ninth inning in a 14-12 win on May 11.

Barker was a first-team All-ASUN selection last year and was the co-ASUN Baseball Scholar-Athlete of the Year after graduating with a degree in general science with a 4.0 grade-point average. 

Freshman outfielder Zeb Allen was named to the All-ASUN third team and to the All-Freshman team.

Allen, from Fort Smith, Ark., shared the hitting lead for the Bears with Drew Sturgeon with a .311 average. He finished the regular season with 56 hits, four doubles, four triples and four home runs, along with 29 walks and 12 hit by pitch. Allen had a team-best .437 on-base percentage and stole nine bases.

Allen had 16 multi-hit games, including three games with three hits. He also had a team-high 25-game on-base streak.