The University of Central Arkansas baseball team evened its season series with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a 6-4 victory Tuesday night at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock.
UCA (32-20) trailed 4-2 in the top of the eighth, but UALR (26-24) surrendered the lead when Bears junior catcher William Hancock and senior shortstop Josh Somdecerff hit consecutive home runs.
Hancock's 390-foot home run to right field drove in three runs, and Somdecerff hit a 87 mph fastball 383 feet onto Willow Street to set the final score.
UALR junior Nick Perez (2-2, 4.64 ERA) surrendered both home runs, and he earned the loss after moving from third base to the mound to pitch the eighth inning.
"It was about time I got the barrel to it tonight. I had some rough at-bats early on," said Hancock, who went 1 for 4 with two strikeouts. "I just had to grind through it, and [Perez] finally made a mistake [throwing a changeup] and I hit it."
UCA freshman right-handed starter Gavin Stone (2-2, 5.33) earned the victory after pitching 7 innings with 7 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks and 5 strikeouts.
UCA avenged its 11-inning, 6-5 home loss to UALR on Feb. 20. The Bears now lead the all-time series 44-32-1.
UCA is in third place in the Southland Conference standings, and it will begin its final conference series Thursday at Nicholls State at 6 p.m.
The Bears are just a half game ahead of fourth-place Northwestern State, and they cannot gain a seed higher than third.
"I was telling our guys, 'We've got to find a reason to fight,' " said UCA Coach Allen Gum, whose record against UALR is 8-7. "I've seen teams that do that sometimes: They go to the tournament and kind of get punched in the face early.
"We got to have that, and we can do some things: More program wins, conference, things like that, keep that reason to fight, and I think [UALR Coach] Chris [Curry] would tell you the same thing."
UALR has clinched a spot in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, but the Trojans trail Louisiana-Lafayette by a half game in the West Division standings.
UALR could win the West title during its final conference series with Arkansas State University, which starts Thursday at 6 p.m. at Gary Hogan Field, and that would give the Trojans the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.
If UALR doesn't win the division, it could fall as far as a No. 8 seed.
"It's conference weekend," said Curry, whose record against UCA is 3-7 in his four seasons. "They know what's at stake, and we're excited to get it going on Thursday."
Before the two UCA home runs Tuesday, the Trojans were on the verge of sweeping their in-state rival for the first time since the two programs played just one game in 2013.
UALR led UCA 1-0 in the bottom of the third when junior right fielder Chase Coker beat out the throw at first base on a grounder, scoring Christian Reyes.
The Bears took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when Somdecerff led off with his 19th double of the season. Senior center fielder Keaton Presley drove him in with a sacrifice fly, and junior left fielder Hunter Strong hit an RBI double three batters later.
UALR tied the game 2-2 in the fifth when junior designated hitter Troy Alexander scored from third when UCA second baseman T.J. Black mishandled a ground ball.
UALR's Perez hit an RBI triple in the sixth, then put UALR up 4-2 by scoring on a wild pitch.
UALR junior Chase Coker instructs Little Rock Junior Deputy T-ball player Liam Strother, 5, how to stand for the national anthem before Tuesday night’s game in North Little Rock.
Central Arkansas shortstop Josh Somdecerff (front) slides safely into home plate past the tag of UALR catcher Kale Emshoff on Tuesday during the Bears’ 6-4 victory over the Trojans at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock.
Sports on 05/16/2018
Print Headline: Power play: Bears go back to back in comeback