MONROE, La. - The UALR baseball team improved to 3-0 at the 2011 Sun Belt Conference Tournament with a 5-3 victory over Florida Atlantic (32-24) on Saturday afternoon at Warhawk Field. The Trojans (23-32) will square off against No. 2-seed Florida International in the Sun Belt Championship game at 1 p.m. on Sunday, with an automatic bid to UALR's first-ever NCAA Regional on the line. The Trojans will be the first No. 8 seed to play in the Sun Belt Championship game, which will be televised by CSS/CST (Comcast Ch. 23 in Little Rock).
Four pitchers combined to hold Florida Atlantic to six hits and three runs in the win, with juniors Chad Woods and Bubba Cooper retiring the final 12 Owls in-order. Senior Casey McCollum and junior Cameron Bentley drove in two runs apiece in the win. McCollum gave the Trojans a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth with a two-run double to left, and Bentley broke a 3-all tie with a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth.
"I was really proud of our team for the way they handled themselves. A lot of people were telling us the night before that there wasn't a lot to play for today, having already clinched a spot in the championship game, but when you put on this uniform you play for pride," said UALR head coach Scott Norwood. "Our guys wanted to keep our momentum going and show people we're proud of what we're doing. I'm really excited about the opportunity we have tomorrow, and it shows the maturity of this team and how far we've come, that we were able to come out today and take care of business."
Senior Daniel Golden got the start for UALR and held the Owls to four hits and two runs over the first 3.0 innings. Golden gave way to junior Dillon Wilson at the start of the fourth inning, and the Verden, Okla.-native worked two scoreless innings to help UALR build a 3-2 lead. Wilson ran into trouble in the top of the sixth after FAU used a pair of walks and two Trojan errors to load the bases, but the 6-7 left-hander struck out Dan Scheffler and got a fly ball out from Alex Hudak to escape the jam unscathed.
FAU tied things up at 3-all in the top of the sixth after Nick Delguidice opened the inning with a leadoff single off of Woods. Delguidice took second on a wild pitch and scored the tying run from third two batters later off a sacrifice fly by Nick Bukovich. Delguidice's single would mark FAU's only hit over the final four innings, however, as Woods retired the next nine Owls he faced.
UALR reclaimed the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth after R.J. Alvarez loaded the bases with a walk and two hit batters. Bentley broke the 3-all tie with a two-run single to left with the bases loaded to score senior Jake Rowell and junior Sean Bignall, and give the Trojans a 5-3 lead.
After working two perfect innings in the seventh and eighth, Woods gave way to Cooper at the start of the ninth and the Marion, Ark.-native retired the Owls in-order to pick up his first save as a Trojan. Woods (1-0) recorded his first win of the season after holding the Owls to one hit and one run over 3.0 innings of relief.
Alvarez (6-6) took the loss for FAU after allowing five hits and five runs over 5.1 innings. Delguidice led the Owls with a 2-for-4 day at the plate, while Raymond Church hit a solo homer in the top of the third - his sixth of the year.