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Trojans’ bats stay hot in win

by Mitchell Gladstone | May 17, 2023 at 3:24 a.m.

Standing on the grass in front of the first-base dugout at Dickey-Stephens Park, University of Arkansas-Little Rock Coach Chris Curry paused to consider the question from a reporter: Is this the best hitting team he's had in nine seasons with the Trojans?

The numbers would suggest it's possible.

With UALR bumping its season team batting average up to .300, the Trojans are within striking distance of their 2016 campaign when they hit .302 and on pace for one of the eight best seasons in program history.

But it goes deeper than that for Curry, who saw his team put away the University of Central Arkansas at the home of the Arkansas Travelers in North Little Rock on Tuesday night, winning 8-3 and sweeping the three-game nonconference season series versus the Bears. UALR bashed its way to 13 hits, 10 coming from the top four in the lineup.

But it's been a group effort all year long as seven of nine regular starters for the Trojans are hitting at least .280.

"They're a true lineup and they complement each other," Curry explained. "[Alex] Seguine knows how to get on base at the top. Tyler Williams is dynamic -- he can bunt or he can hit it out of the yard. In the three-hole, [Luke] Pectol has emerged and is our hottest hitter the last month.

"You go down all the way through the order with [Nico] Baumbach and [Skyler] Trevino, and somebody's going to get you. Somebody's going to get the big hit.

UCA (21-30) grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, opening the scoring on Kolby Johnson's two-out RBI triple before Connor Flagg singled to score Johnson.

UALR (30-19) countered with two runs in the home half of the first before putting together a two-out rally in the third, scoring Seguine on Pectol's double and bringing Pectol in on Baumbach's single.

Baumbach then tripled in the fifth to give the Trojans a 5-2 lead, but UALR couldn't put things away until the eighth.

After the first three Bears reached base safely and Flagg's RBI single cut the UCA deficit to 5-3 in the top of the eighth, Curry brought in reliever Erik McKnight with runners on first and second and nobody out.

Two strikeouts and a caught stealing quieted any further threat by the Bears, and with a pair of triples in the bottom of the eighth -- the second coming from Williams and scoring two runs -- the Trojans got some insurance, pushing their advantage to 8-3.

"The effort and the competitiveness were great," UCA Coach Nick Harlan said of his team. "We just didn't execute a few things that we needed to and made a few mistakes and it cost us."

UALR's 30th win is a milestone Curry hoped to hit in the Trojans' debut Ohio Valley Conference season. Not only is it the first time UALR has reached that plateau under Curry -- it won 28 in 2018 and 29 in 2019 -- but it's the first time the program has done so since 2003 and just the fourth time the Trojans have won at least 30 as a Division I team.

But Curry would also like to accomplish something else in the coming days: winning a regular-season conference title.

With a half-game lead over Morehead State and Southeast Missouri -- UALR is 14-6 while the others are 14-7 -- a Trojan sweep of the Eagles this weekend in Kentucky would guarantee an outright regular-season championship.

"It's the next hurdle, it's the next goal in our program," Curry said. "That would be the message to the team: Let's not be happy with having a good solid year. ... This team is locked in on going and winning a championship and gong to a regional, and I think they'll be upset if they don't win."

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[WP — Busey. HBP — by Burkey (King), by McKnight (Bowman). Umpires — Home: Whitaker, First: Bennett, Third: Montgomery. Time — 2:45. Attendance — 549., WP —, HBP —, Umpires —, Time —, Attendance —]


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