LITTLE ROCK – The UALR baseball team opened the season with a 5-1 win over Creighton at Gary Hogan Field. The Trojans (1-0, 0-0 Sun Belt Conference) used a strong performance from senior Travis McDonald and the bullpen to hold the Bluejays’ (0-1, 0-0 Big East) offense down until the offense pulled away late.
UALR opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning when senior Ben Crumpton led off with a single. Crumpton stole second and then advanced to third on a groundout by sophomore Ryan Scott. Crumpton scored the game’s first run on an RBI groundout by senior Austin Pfeiffer.
McDonald (1-0), who went five innings allowing just one run on seven hits and five strikeouts, allowed Creighton to tie the game in the top of the fifth. It could have been worse had it not been for Scott and Pfeiffer’s quick relay home to cut down the would-be go-ahead runner at home plate.
In the bottom of the inning the Trojans answered right back. Junior Mitchell Scheuler led off by reaching on an error before being sacrificed to third by junior Drew Merten. That brought up the nine-hole hitter sophomore Hayden Martin who singled through the right side to give the Trojans a 2-1 lead.
The score remained the same thanks to stellar bullpen pitching from sophomore Jesse Harbin and junior Tanner Rockwell. The duo held the Bluejays scoreless in the sixth, seventh and eighth with the score knotted at 2-1. But in the bottom of the eighth, UALR’s offense came to life.
With one out Pfeiffer struck out, but was able to beat the throw to first from the catcher on the wild pitch before senior Bryson Thionnet singled into left. After junior Justin Steelmon struck out it was up to Rockwell to give himself breathing room on the mound and he did just that. The designated hitter/closer singled to bring home Pfeiffer. Scheuler then stepped to the plate and hit a blooper down into right field that found the grass allowing Thionnet and Rockwell to score to give UALR the 5-1 lead.
Rockwell went back out to the mound in the ninth and shut down the Bluejays to earn the save with two innings pitched allowing one hit and striking out one. Harbin also went two innings in middle relief and allowed just one hit and struck out two.
Martin and Scheuler led the offense as each went 2-for-4 in the UALR debuts. Scheuler had two RBIs and scored a run while Martin had one RBI. Crumpton, Scott, Thionnet, Merten and Rockwell produced the other five hit for the Trojans. Pfeiffer and Rockwell each had RBIs.
UALR moves to 12-3 in opening weekend games under Scott Norwood and are now 8-4 against Creighton all-time. The Trojans will be back at it again at Gary Hogan Field against Creighton tomorrow at 3 p.m.