UALR Trojans (0-0)
vs. Evansville Purple Aces (0-0)
Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 - 3PM (Central)
Little Rock, Ark. (Gary Hogan Field)
The UALR Trojans enter the 2013 season looking to bounce back from a disappointing end to their 2012 campaign... While UALR failed to make the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, the Trojans still tallied series wins over Troy, South Alabama, FIU, Louisiana-Lafayette, and the Sun Belt regular season champions of Florida Atlantic...UALR finished ninth in conference, but were only three games out of third place in what was a tightly-contested conference season... This year, head coach Scott Norwood returns five starters and 20 lettermen, including the recently announced Sun Belt Preseason Pitcher of the Year Chance Cleveland... Cleveland will be joined by, 2012 First Team All-Sun Belt and All-South Central Region selection Blake Johnson and 2012 First Team All-Sun Belt utility player Myles Parma.
Evansville enters the 2013 season fresh off a 32-27 season that saw the Purple Aces finish fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 10-11 record...The Purple Aces return six starters in the field and their entire starting rotation from a year ago... Offensively, Evansville will be paced by senior Jason Hockemeyer and sophomore Kevin Kaczmarski, who hit .306 and .303 respectively in 2011.
Chance Cleveland, Blake Johnson, and Myles Parma all return for their senior season looking to bolster their already impressive resumes.
Cleveland entered the 2012 season as a relative unknown, but that quickly changed as he compiled a 9-4 record over 14 starts en route to being a First Team All-Sun Belt selection as well a Second Team ABCA All-South Central Region selection... His 98 strikeouts over 91.2 innings of work last season were tops in the Sun Belt... Cleveland ended the year tied for first in the Sun Belt in wins and his 2012 efforts garnered him a 2013 Preseason Pitcher of the Year selection in the SBC.
A staple behind the plate, Johnson provided security and consistency both offensively and defensively in his first year as a Trojan... Johnson finished third on the team with a .315 batting average, while recording 15 multi-hit and eight multi-RBI games... From March 30 - April 20, Johnson compiled a team-high 12-game hit streak... Defensively, Johnson gunned down a league-high seven runners on stolen base attempts in conference play... His 2012 efforts led to First Team All-Sun Belt and First Team ABCA All-South Central Region selections.
One of the longest tenured Trojans on this year's roster, Parma has become the definition of versatile... His 17 starts at first base, 19 starts in right field, 10 starts at catcher, and six starts as a designated hitter produced a 2012 First Team All-Sun Belt selection as a utility player... A tough out at the plate, Parma led the team and ranked second in the Sun Belt with a .499 on-base percentage... Recorded 19 multi-hit games in 2012 and ended the year with a .292 batting average.
POSSIBLE POWER OUTAGE
The 2012 season provided some noteworthy offensive numbers for the Trojans, but the loss of several key seniors could bring those numbers back down to earth... The Trojans will be without Sean Bignall (.346 BA, 18 HR, 64 RBI), Cameron Bentley (.339 BA, 6 HR, 35 RBI) and Nick Rountree (.253 BA, 11 HR, 44 RBI) as they played their final season in 2012... The trio combined for 35 home runs and 143 RBIs last year... Bignall and Bentley were regulars in the Trojan outfield as Bignall started every game in left field and Bentley started all but one game in centerfield.
FILLING THE VOID
With the loss of three key starters from a year ago, a revamped Trojan lineup will look to pick up right where the offense left off last year... Juniors Ben Crumpton and Bryson Thionnet will likely man the outfield, providing speed and athleticism ... In his first season at UALR, Crumpton became the Trojan's biggest threat on the base paths, going 24-of-25 on stolen base attempts in 2012... Crumpton started 40 games as a sophomore, batting .292 with 40 runs scored. Thionnet, who was a regular in the Trojan infield last year, will make the transition to the outfield in 2013... Thionnet recorded eight multi-hit games and was 10-for-14 on stolen base attempts in 2012.
BATTLE ON THE BUMP
Both teams should have their hands full on offense this weekend with three competitive matchups on the mound likely to take place... The season opener pegs UALR's Chance Cleveland against Evansville's sophomore Kyle Freeland... The Purple Aces' southpaw recorded a team-high 70 strikeouts and was named the Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week twice in 2012... On Saturday, UALR's Blake Huffman battles Evansville's Sam Johns... Huffman was UALR's Saturday starter in 2012 and recorded five wins and 70 strikeouts... In the finale, UALR's Ethan Schlechte will go up against the Purple Aces' Kyle Lloyd... Lloyd went 6-3 in 2012 with a 3.01 ERA and 58 strikeouts.
GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START
Since joining UALR in 2009, head coach Scott Norwood has a 9-2 overall record on opening weekend, including a three game sweep over UAPB last year. On opening day alone, Norwood has a 3-1 record at UALR.
ALL TIME AGAINST THE PURPLE ACES
UALR and Evansville have a brief history of two games that date back to the 2005 season. The Purple Aces handed two losses to the Trojans, with a 5-4 win on Feb. 14 and a 13-10 victory the following day.
SUN BELT ANNOUNCES TV SCHEDULE
UALR has been picked by the Sun Belt Network to appear on the CSS Network May 18 when the Trojans travel to take on in-state rival Arkansas State... Playoff implications are likely to be on the line when these two rivals square off in the final weekend of conference play.