Entering its late March series against Georgia State, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock was 7-18 overall and 2-4 in the Sun Belt Conference.
But a three-game sweep against Georgia State on March 29-31 and a 17-7 rout of the University of Arkansas on April 2 kick-started the Trojans, who have won 10 of their past 11 games. They've earned Sun Belt series victories over Georgia State, Texas-Arlington and Coastal Carolina in less than a month.
UALR (17-19) is now in second place in the Sun Belt West at 9-5, 1½ games behind Texas-Arlington (25-13, 11-4), as it heads to Louisiana-Monroe (15-21, 5-9) today for a three-game series.
"We're starting to play like the team we thought they were at the beginning," UALR Coach Chris Curry said. "We had to figure out some roles and do some shifting. We're starting to eliminate some mistakes. We're getting some consistent outings on the mound and that's the key."
Senior designated hitter Riley Pittman went 8 for 10 with 5 RBI in 3 games at Gary Hogan Field in Little Rock against the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff on April 9 and Coastal Carolina in a doubleheader Friday, earning Sun Belt Player of the Week honors Tuesday. Pittman had a school-record four doubles against UAPB.
On Tuesday against the University of Central Arkansas, Pittman hit a three-run home run -- his seventh of the season -- to help the Trojans defeat the Bears 4-2.
Junior left-hander Chandler Fidel, who struck out 10 in 71/3 innings against Coastal Carolina on Friday, will start today for the Trojans against the Warhawks. Fidel (4-2) has won his past three starts.
Curry hopes the Trojans can continue to play good baseball against the Sun Belt West's last-place team.
"The next game is the biggest game of the year. That's the way we look at it," Curry said. "It's a little different shoe on the other foot where we're playing in front a little bit. I'm interested to see how we handle that.
"The message to the team is the scoreboard doesn't matter. The wins and losses don't matter. It's how we play the game. If we play well, we've got a chance to win.
"But Monroe is a very good club. They've recruited well. We're going to be in for a buzzsaw this weekend."
Big series ahead
The University of Central Arkansas is at home for only six of its final 17 regular-season games.
The Bears (17-20) will host a three-game series against Southland Conference leader Sam Houston State today through Saturday at Bear Stadium in Conway.
UCA, which enters today's game in seventh place in the Southland at 8-7, is home this weekend and May 10-12 against Abilene Christian.
Coach Allen Gum said he understands the importance of the series against the Bearkats (22-12, 14-4), not just for conference purposes, but also for it being at Bear Stadium, where the Bears are 12-11 this season.
"Huge series, no question about it," Gum said. "They're leading the league right now. They're one of the top teams in the country. They'll have athletes all over the field. They have good arms. They play hard-nosed baseball.
"It's just like anything else. We can't give them an extra out. If we give them an extra out, they'll take advantage of that. We have to get ready to play some good baseball.
"We'll be ready for this weekend. It will be a challenge, no doubt about it. But we'll be ready."
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Simmons Bank Pavilion at 2 p.m. Friday at the Torii Hunter Baseball Complex.
Also, the baseball field will be named for Bill Jones, president of Sissy's Log Cabin.
The pavilion features a press box, office space, team locker rooms and concession stand. Simmons Bank donated $2.5 million in May to UAPB to upgrade the school's athletic facilities. In addition to the baseball pavilion, the money from the donation helped pay for a new artificial turf surface at Simmons Bank Field, the Golden Lions' football stadium.
Five-time All-Star outfielder and Pine Bluff native Torii Hunter previously donated $500,000 for the initial construction of the baseball and softball complex that bears his name.
UAPB is hosting Grambling State in a three-game series Friday-Sunday, with Friday's game scheduled for 3 p.m.
Raffo earns No. 300
Arkansas State Coach Tommy Raffo earned his 300th victory Tuesday night as the Red Wolves defeated Southeast Missouri State 8-4.
The Red Wolves improved to 22-16 with Tuesday's victory.
In 11 seasons at ASU, Raffo is 300-304-1. He was hired in July 2008 after spending 15 seasons as an assistant at Mississippi State.
ASU, which is 8-8 in the Sun Belt Conference, begins a three-game series at Texas State today.
Sports on 04/18/2019
Print Headline: UALR's run puts it near top