NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Junior Chance Cleveland allowed just two hits while throwing 7.0 innings of shutout baseball, as UALR (4-1) won the opener of its four-game stint in Nashville over Belmont (2-3) by a score of 7-0. Sophomore Ben Crumpton led the UALR with bats with a 2-for-2 effort at the plate, including a triple to go along with a run scored and two drawn walks.
Senior Sean Bignall and junior Blake Johnson each hit homers for the Trojans. Bignall finished the day with three RBI, while six different UALR players ended the day with at least one hit.
The shutout performance was the second straight by Cleveland to start his UALR career. The Pine Bluff, Ark., native threw 6.0 scoreless innings in his first start against UAPB on Feb. 17, and has now given up just four hits and struck out 12 batters through his first 13.0 innings of Division I baseball.
Cleveland picked up the win to improve to 2-0 this season. Dan Ludwig was handed the loss for Belmont to drop to 0-2 on the year.
The Trojans put up four runs on three hits, including back-to-back homers by Bignall and Johnson, to take an early 4-0 lead after their first set of at bats. After a two-out double by junior David Guarno plated the first UALR run of the inning, consecutive homers by Bignall and Johnson pushed the Trojan lead to four. Bignall's two-run homer was his team-leading third of the season, while Johnson's solo shot was the first of his UALR career.
Ludwig settled down after the rough opening inning, however. The left-hander allowed just one hit and three base runners over his final 5.0 innings to keep the UALR lead at four.
With Blake Harvey on for Ludwig to start the seventh, UALR tacked on its fifth run of the contest in the top half of the frame. After sophomore Bryson Thionnet walked to lead off the inning, Crumpton singled through the right side to give UALR runners at first and second with no outs. A single to right field later in the inning by senior Greg Garcia plated Thionnet to give UALR a 5-0 lead.
Belmont led off the seventh with a pair of baserunners thanks to two Trojan miscues, but were unable to turn either into runs. With Bruins at first and second no outs on the board, Cleveland retired three straight, striking out two, to escape the inning unscathed.
The Trojans manufactured their sixth run in the top of the eighth. Junior Chris Burk was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning before advancing to second on a wild pitch. A fly ball out by Guarno to deep left field moved Burk over to third, and grounder by Bignall to the shortstop allowed Burk to score and push the UALR lead to six. UALR added its seventh and final run in the top of the ninth, when Crumpton led off the inning with a triple and was brought home on a sacrifice fly by Bentley.
Cleveland gave way to junior Bubba Cooper in the bottom of the eighth, who promptly retired three straight in his first inning of work.
Cooper then ran into a bit of trouble to start the ninth, hitting the first batter before surrendering back-to-back singles to load the bases. But the Marion, Ark., native was able to work himself out of the jam, striking out the next Belmont batter before getting the following Bruin hitter to ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
UALR returns to action on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. when it stays in Nashville to takes on Bradley. Junior Blake Huffman is scheduled to start for the Trojans, while the Braves are expected to throw left-hander Joe Bircher.