SUGAR LAND, Texas – Central Arkansas went to the arm of its freshman right-handed pitcher Connor Gilmore to start the championship game of the Southland Conference Baseball Tournament and got a two-hit, complete-game 4-0 shutout against Southeastern Louisiana to claim the school’s league
The win also locked up the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Division I Championship, which will be the Bears’ first national postseason appearance since playing in the 1959 NAIA playoffs. Central Arkansas moved to NCAA Division II in 1993 and to Division I in 2007, only becoming eligible for postseason in 2010 after its transition period.
The No. 7 seed Bears (39-20) earned their first berth in the conference tournament in 2012 and won its first postseason game in on Thursday against Stephen F. Austin, the first of five consecutive wins after falling to No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in their opening game of the tournament. After defeating the Islanders, UCA beat No. 3 seed Oral Roberts twice to reach the title game.
Gilmore, who made only four starts in 10 games before the tournament, had shown promise during the regular season with a 3-0 record and 1.42 earned-run average. On Saturday, he had to overcome four walks and a wild pitch. Southeastern got its first hit in the fourth, a two-out single by Jesse Buratt, and another in the fifth, a single by Alex Marse. The UCA pitcher tossed his first complete game to earn his fourth win of the season, obliterating his season-high pitch count of 76 by throwing 126 against the Lions.
Southeastern starter Kaleb Manuel lasted only into the third inning and accounted for the first three runs on two hits. He walked two and struck out two in falling to 4-5 on the year.
Manuel held UCA scoreless in the first two innings before running into
trouble in the bottom of the third inning. Chris Townsend drew a walk to lead off the inning and went to second on a passed ball. Forrestt Allday was hit by a pitch before a Jonathan Davis Bunt loaded the bases. Thatprompted a pitching change for Southeastern, who brought in Mason Klotz for Manuel to face Ethan Harris.
Klotz started off with a wild pitch of his own, allowing Townsend to break the scoreless tie. Harris drew a walk to reload the bases. The Lions got the force out at second on Blake Marchal’s grounder to third. Michael Marietta drew a bases-loaded walk for the second run before a sacrifice fly by Scott Zimmerle to bring in Harris to cap the scoring in the third.
UCA scored its final run in the seventh, getting a sacrifice fly from
Zimmerle after back-to-back singles by Marchal and Marietta to start the inning.
Gilmore retired the final 11 batters of the game and got a fly out and a
pair of grounds, including a grounder to second base as the final out of the game that ignited a wild celebration at Constellation Field.
The Bears will find out where they will go in the NCAA tournament on
Monday. The tournament selection show will be televised on ESPNU at 11 a.m., CT.
Southeastern finished its season 36-24 after falling in the final game of the tournament for the second consecutive season.
2013 Southland Conference Baseball All-Tournament Team
MVP Forrestt Allday, Central Arkansas
C Michael Marietta, Central Arkansas
1B Jameson Fisher, Southeastern Louisiana
2B V.J. Bunner, Lamar
3B Garrett Brown, Central Arkansas
SS Sam Bumpers, Lamar
OF Logan Domenico, Oral Roberts
OF Ladd Rhodes, Southeastern Louisiana
DH Seth Dornak, Lamar
P Jonathan Dziedzic, Lamar
P Connor Gilmore, Central Arkansas
Central Arkansas Head Coach Allen Gum
On winning the championship
“It feels so good because the whole year, we started out so good and then
we hit a lull, but I knew if we could get back to playing like we did
earlier in the year. It came down to we got a swinging bunt to for a hit
and then we found a line, then something turned right there and we had
great, unbelievable gutty performances from (Caleb) McClanahan and the
freshman (Connor Gilmore) steps up tonight. It feels great. It’s awesome.
I love seeing players reach their goals collectively and individually. I’m
proud of ‘em. I couldn’t be happier for this group of young men. They are
solid with good team chemistry and they just hang in there and fight
together. I’m proud as heck of ‘em.”
On Connor Gilmore
“We had an ace in the hole. I don’t think anyone else knew it, but we knew
it and he came through and pitched unbelievable tonight. I’m so proud of
Connor. He’s come a long way in one year. He just kept working and
working. We knew if he had good stuff and if he wasn’t overwhelmed by the
situation, we knew he was going to have a good night.”
On transition period from Division II to Division I
“It’s tough; there is no doubt about that. We just linked a lot of
possible together. Getting this player and that player, just doing the
little things. One little thing after another and those little things
added up to a big thing tonight.”
Central Arkansas outfield Forrestt Allday
On being named the tournament’s most valuable player
“It sounds great. I thank God for the opportunity. I’m just so thankful
and so happy.”
On Connor Gilmore
“Obviously, it’s (MVP award) going to go to Connor Gilmore. He comes in
and throws a complete game as a freshman and that’s huge for us. Going in
we kind of had an idea of who was going to go in this game. The past
couple weeks he had been our midweek guy…he came in and he pounded the
zone and he did everything we asked of him. I can’t say enough about him.
He is going to be here for a couple more years, so watch out guys.”
On winning the championship and playing in NCAA Regional
“We believed. We caught the breaks and put it together and we got it done.
As the far as the regional, I’m excited. At the beginning of the year, we
were top-25, but through the middle of the season it was kind of a
letdown. I think we are getting that feeling back that we are playing good
and everything is clicking and we’re all linked up and it’s very
Central Arkansas pitcher Connor Gilmore
On pitching in championship game as a freshman
“There are no words to describe it. When your fastball is working and your
defense is working behind you and you put your faith in God, everything is
just there. I love my team.”
On winning out from losers bracket
“We have heart. We have team camaraderie, we have heart. It’s all about
fight, having faith and finishing. The three F’s right there.”
On being nervous
“I was nervous, but I tried to say to myself that it was a new day and to
do the same thing I’d been doing all year.”
Southeastern Louisiana Head Coach Jay Artigues
On Central Arkansas’ Connor Gilmore
“First, you have to give credit to Central Arkansas. They did a tremendous
job; (Connor) Gilmore was really good on the mound tonight. I can tell you
that he didn’t pitch like a freshman, he pitched with a lot of maturity
and he pounded the strike zone and let his defense work. You have to tip
your hat to him.”
On feelings towards his squad and seniors
“I feel really bad for our kids. They are a great group of kids and fun to
coach…They (seniors) are some class kids and they did a great job leading.
We have a lot young kids, true freshmen and those seniors did a good job
of showing them how to lead.”
On positives from tournament
“We got back to a championship again, but that makes it hurt even more. We
got the experience of it and we have to keep fighting and break over that
Southland Conference Tournament Results
Wednesday, May 22
Game One: No. 3 Oral Roberts 4, No. 6 Stephen F. Austin 2
Game Two: No. 2 A&M-Corpus Christi 5, No. 7 Central Arkansas 3
Game Three: No. 1 Sam Houston St. 8, No. 8 McNeese St. 3
Game Four: No. 4 Southeastern La. 5, No. 5 Lamar 3
Thursday, May 23
Game Five: No. 7 Central Arkansas 7, No. 6 Stephen F. Austin 3
Game Six: No. 5 Lamar 10, No. 8 McNeese St. 3
Game Seven: No. 3 Oral Roberts 6, No. 2 A&M-Corpus Christi 1
Game Eight: No. 4 Southeastern La. 5, No. 1 Sam Houston St. 3
Friday, May 24
Game Nine: No. 7 Central Arkansas 8, No. 2 A&M-Corpus Christi 1
Game 10: No. 5 Lamar 3, No. 1 Sam Houston St. 1
Game 11: No. 7 Central Arkansas 6, No. 3 Oral Roberts 5
Game 12: No. 5 Lamar 12, No. 4 Southeastern La. 2 (7 innings)
Saturday, May 25
Game 13: No. 7 Central Arkansas 11, No. 3 Oral Roberts 3
Game 14: No. 4 Southeastern La. 7, No. 5 Lamar 2
Championship: No. 7 Central Arkansas 4, No. 4 Southeastern La. 0
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