Press Release from Central Arkansas Athletics
Two up, two down for the University of Central Arkansas Bears at the 2019 Southland Conference Tournament.
The second-seeded Bears (31-25) got their second complete-game shutout in as many days, this one from sophomore right hander Gavin Stone, to run-rule the sixth-seeded Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 11-0 in the winner's bracket on Thursday at Constellation Field. The Bears scored all the runs they would need in their first at-bat of the day, plating three runs on three hits in the top of the first inning. UCA would add a three-run seventh and chalk up five more in the eighth to end the game in eight innings.
Stone, who has been UCA's closer for most of the season, was a surprise starter in Game 2 and made the most of his opportunity. He threw an even 100 pitches, a season high, and allowed just six hits, all singles. Stone, with a previous high of 91 pitches early in the season against Missouri State in his only other start of the year, struck out five and issued no walks.
Stone followed up senior Cody Davenport's complete game in Wednesday's tournament opener to keep the UCA bullpen at full strength heading into Day 3 of the tournament.
"It starts with starting pitching and Stone was really, really good,' said UCA head coach Allen Gum. "We let him know this morning. He had an idea he could go and then today we confirmed it. But he's pretty stoic, pretty level, so he was ready to go, and it showed today. He had good stuff.'
Gum and pitching coach Nick Harlan were not sure they could get another complete game from Stone, who had thrown more than 50 pitches just once since April 6. He leads the Bears with six saves and is now 4-3 overall.
"That was a concern,' said Gum. "We were hoping if we could get five or six, we’d take that, because he’s been closing. But he got eight for us and that was awesome. Save the arms. Those (bullpen) guys are going to have to come in sooner or later, but later is better than sooner.'
Stone, a sophomore from Jonesboro who played at Riverside High School, was not sure what to expect either.
"Honestly, I was worried about it,' said Stone. "I thought I was going to get like maybe six innings. It really surprised me that I went that long.'
The early 3-0 lead certainly helped.
"It made me relax,' said Stone. "I was a little nervous because it was only the second game that I started. Getting those runs was huge for me to relax and calm down.'
The Bears have a shot at advancing to their fourth SLC championship game since 2013, but need one more win to get there. UCA is the highest seed remaining after No. 1 Sam Houston State went 0-2 and was eliminated earlier Thursday.