LITTLE ROCK - The UALR baseball team (0-1) dropped its season opener to Evansville (1-0) by a score of 2-1 Friday afternoon at Gary Hogan Field. Evansville's Kylee Freeland was credited with the win, tossing eight strikeouts in seven complete innings of work. Freeland bested UALR's Chance Cleveland who took the loss in his first outing of the year, despite striking out eight batters and only allowing two runs over 7.1 innings.
Evansville would waste little time before jumping out on UALR's 2013 Sun Belt Preseason Pitcher of the Year. The Purple Aces recorded three consecutive hits off Cleveland to start the top of the first inning, including a lead-off double by Kevin Kaczmarski, followed by a single from Jake Mahon. A two-RBI single to right field by Evansville's Kyle Pollack plated Kaczmarski and Mahon, giving the Purple Aces an early 2-0 advantage.
Cleveland would shake his first inning jitters and settle in by retiring the side in the second, fourth, and fifth inning. After allowing three hits in the first inning, Cleveland only allowed three hits the rest of the way and shutout Evansville for the remainder of his outing.
Freeland was not to be outdone however, as the south paw from Evansville kept the Trojan offense at bay for the majority of the afternoon.
UALR would finally get to Freeland in the bottom of the sixth inning when junior Austin Pfeiffer laced a lead-off single up the middle. Sophomore Sam Vogel followed with an infield single, giving UALR runners on first and second with nobody out. After Ben Crumpton popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt, Pfeiffer and Vogel both stole bases, advancing them to third base and second base respectively with one out. Senior Myles Parma then grounded out to the second baseman, allowing Pfeiffer to score from third and giving the Trojans their first run of the 2013 season.
That would be the only run on the afternoon for the Trojans however, as Evansville's bullpen picked up right where Freeland left off.
UALR's combination of Cleveland, Chase Rousseau and Dillon Moritz held Evansville scoreless for the final eight innings of play and only allowed the Purple Aces to reach third base once during that time. Moritz worked the final 1.2 innings and held Evansville hitless.
UALR threatened to score in the bottom of the ninth inning after a lead-off single to right field from Parma and a walk from senior Chris Burk put two runners on with nobody out. Blake Johnson followed by advancing both runners with a sacrifice bunt. A hit-by-pitch put senior John Clark at first and loaded the bases with one out.
Evansville's Jake Naumann remained unfazed however, striking out Bryson Thionnet and getting Kaleb Jobe to ground out to end the game.
Pfeiffer paced the Trojans on offense going two-for-three with a stolen base and five assists in his debut at shortstop. Five other Trojans recorded one hit apiece.
UALR and Evansville will return to action Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. for the second game of the three-game series. Senior Blake Huffman is scheduled to start on the mound for the Trojans, while the Purple Aces will send out junior Sam Johns.