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Junior Chance Cleveland picked up his fifth win of the season after giving up just two runs on three hits over 8.0 innings.
View larger Courtesy: Matt Johnson

Junior Chance Cleveland picked up his fifth win of the season after giving up just two runs on three hits over 8.0 innings.
Courtesy: Matt Johnson
Junior Chance Cleveland picked up his fifth win of the season after giving up just two runs on three hits over 8.0 innings.
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Cleveland Strikes Out 12 as UALR Takes Game One Against Troy, 5-3
UALR Sports Information
Release: 03/23/2012

LITTLE ROCK - Junior Chance Cleveland surrendered just two runs on three hits and struck out a career-best 12 batters, as UALR (14-8, 1-3) earned its first Sun Belt Conference victory of the year with a 5-3 defeat of Troy (10-10, 1-3) Friday night at Gary Hogan Field. Troy rallied for a pair of runs in the top of the ninth on a two-run homer by pinch hitter Jo-El Bennett, but relievers Andrew Hohn and Bubba Cooper combined to record the final three outs of the game and secure the victory for the Trojans.

The victory by Cleveland improves his record to 5-1 on the season in six starts. The right-hander gave up two runs on three hits over his 8.0 innings of the work and induced nine groundball outs to go along with his 12 strikeouts. Cleveland's 12 K's moved him into the Sun Belt lead in that category, and were just two off the single-game UALR record (14) shared by David Klumpp (4/26/08 vs. Houston Baptist) and Brad Cherry (3/18/03 vs. Western Illinois).

Troy's Tyler Ray, the 2011 Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year, was dealt the loss after giving up five runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings of work. Ray pitched well through his first five innings, but ran into trouble in the sixth as he gave up four runs on three hits before being pulled with two outs on the board.

Cooper, who came on in the ninth and recorded the final two outs of the game for the Trojans, was credited with the save.

The Trojan offense was led by junior Chris Burk who went 2-for-4 on the day to go along with a pair of runs scored. Senior Nick Rountree hit his fifth homer of the season, a two-run blast in the sixth and totaled three RBI on the evening. Junior John Clark and sophomore Bryson Thionnet chipped in with back-to-back RBI doubles as part of UALR's four-run sixth inning as well.

­The Trojans were able to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first thanks to Burk's second hit of the day - a leadoff triple off the fence in right field. Burk would score UALR's first run of the day when the next batter, Rountree, hit a grounder down the third base line that allowed the second-baseman to come home and give UALR a one-run cushion.

Cleveland ran into a bit of trouble in the top half of the sixth, when he hit leadoff hitter Austin Golden with a 1-1 pitch to give Troy its first base runner since issuing a walk to the first batter of the fourth. A sac bunt by Tyler Hannah moved Golden to second, and a groundout by Logan Pierce moved the Troy baserunner to third with two outs on the board. But Cleveland was able to escape with no further damage, issuing his tenth strikeout of the game to Danny Collins to get out of the inning unscathed and keep UALR's one-run lead intact.

UALR grew its lead to five in the bottom of the sixth on Rountree's two-run homer and a pair of RBI doubles by Clark and Thionnet. With Burk standing on second base, Rountree got things started when he ripped a 1-2 pitch over the left field fence to build a 3-0 lead for the Trojans. Clark doubled in the Trojans' second run of the inning, while Thionnet's double down the left field line plated Clark to make it a 5-0 ballgame.  

Cleveland cruised through the top half of the seventh, retiring the side in order, and then struck out the first two batters he faced in the eighth before the Troy hitters were finally able to have some success against him. After the right-hander issued a walk to Golden on a 3-2 count, Troy picked up its second and third hits of the day on back-to-back singles by Hannah and Pierce to plate Troy's first run of the game and make it a 5-1 contest.

The Pine Bluff, Ark., native came back on to start the ninth for the Trojans, but promptly plunked the first batter he faced and was relieved by the left-hander Hohn. Hohn gave up the homer to Bennett on his third pitch, but settled in to get Tyler Vaughn to fly out for the first out of the inning. After Brandon Brown singled to give Troy a baserunner, head coach Scott Norwood called on Cooper from the bullpen to close things out. Cooper was able to get the first batter he faced, Jakob Nixon, to groundout to Thionnet at short before he got Golden looking on a 3-2 count to end the game.

UALR and Troy will play game two of their series on Saturday at 4 p.m. Junior Blake Huffman will get the start for the Trojans, while Troy's starter is TBA. 

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