CONWAY -- The University Central Arkansas softball team understood the stakes entering the weekend: two wins for a division title, three for a top-two seed.
So after sweeping Friday's doubleheader against Jacksonville State, the Bears were all the more anxious to finish the task Saturday at Farris Field.
Only after Kayla Beaver's strikeout to end the top of the seventh innings did they celebrate.
UCA clinched the No. 2 seed in this week's ASUN Conference Tournament with a 2-1 win against the Gamecocks on Saturday afternoon, again leaning on its pitching as Jacksonville State managed five hits.
Jordan Johnson picked up her 13th win, striking out 6 over 5 2/3 innings, with Beaver grabbing the save as she recorded the final four outs while allowing one baserunner on a walk.
"To end up finishing the Western Division with just two losses is outstanding," Bears Coach Jenny Parsons said. "We pitched great all year long, we played outstanding all year long and then we just find a way to put some runs on the board."
The Bears wrote a similar script in their regular-season finale. UCA (33-18, 17-7 ASUN) scored three batters into the game as Jenna Wildeman came in to score on Mary Kate Brown's single.
Jacksonville State (30-22, 13-11) pulled even on an RBI single by Karson Mosley in the third, yet the Gamecocks would not put a runner in scoring position again until there were two outs in the sixth.
The Bears broke the deadlock in the fifth, pushing center fielder Reagan Sperling across as Jaylee Engelkes lashed a single up the middle to give UCA the 2-1 advantage it would hang onto the rest of the way.
The Bears began their first season in the ASUN -- and first under Parsons -- with five losses in nine conference games. The low point came in an early April sweep against North Florida.
From that point, UCA won 13 of 15 ASUN games.
Florida hasn't been kind to the Bears in 2022 -- they've won only twice in eight tries there.
But UCA will have a shot at redemption this week, beginning at 9 a.m. Central on Thursday when the Bears begin their run toward a second NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.
"We're just going to want to keep working," Brown said. "We're not stopping here."