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Gum, UCA baseball coach since 2011, to retire

by Eli Lederman | May 24, 2021 at 1:56 a.m.

Allen Gum -- the winningest coach in University of Central Arkansas' baseball history -- is retiring after 11 seasons with the Bears, the program announced Sunday, one day after UCA closed its 2021 season with a 5-4 win over McNeese State.

The Bentonville native joined the program in 2011 and won 310 games with the Bears, guiding them to eight consecutive Southland Conference Tournament appearances from 2012-19. Gum, 51, led the Bears to the conference championship and the program's first-ever NCAA regional appearance in 2013, and leaves with the eighth-most victories in Southland Conference history. He retires with 536 wins across 16 collegiate seasons.

Associate head coach Nick Harlan -- who has coached the Bears' pitchers since 2013 -- has been selected to replace Gum.

"I've been thinking about it for a couple of years, and I just wanted to make sure the program was in a great place when I left, and it is," Gum said in a news release. "I feel like the foundation is solid and I feel like the future is going to be really bright for UCA baseball. Nick, being here eight years, just knowing how we do things, he'll keep that going. He'll do a great job."

Gum's coaching career began as an assistant at Sheridan before a four-year stint as head coach for Batesville, where he took the Pioneers to back-t0-back Class 4A runner-up finishes in 2002 and 2003. He returned to Southern Arkansas University, his alma mater, as an assistant in 2004 and took over the program in 2006. In five seasons under Gum, the Muleriders carried a record of 226-68, won a pair of conference titles and reached the NCAA Division II College World Series in 2009.

The Bears finished below .500 in each of Gum's first two seasons, then won a program-best 42 games in their record-setting 2013 season. UCA won five consecutive elimination games to secure the conference title as the No. 7 seed and earned three victories in its first NCAA regional appearance before falling to eventual national runner-up Mississippi State. The Bears closed 2013 ranked No. 25 in the nation and appeared in three more conference championship games during Gum's tenure.

"I remember my first couple of years how hard it was to finally get in the tournament our second year here," Gum said. "And then that third year, what an incredible, magical season that was. Finishing 25th in the nation, one game away from a Super Regional."

Prior to UCA, Harlan, 42, was the head coach at York College (Neb.) where he led the Spartans to five conference championships and twice earned Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors.

Four Bears pitchers have been selected in the MLB Draft since Harlan arrived.

"I'm just so grateful for this opportunity," Harlan said. "And I'm just so thankful that God put the Gums in our life, they mean so much to us. They are a huge part of our family. I just feel like this program is in a great place, and I feel honored to have the opportunity to build on such a solid foundation."

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