LITTLE ROCK – The UALR baseball team continued its hot start on Friday afternoon, equaling a feat not seen at Gary Hogan Field since 1999.
The Trojans moved to 5-0 on the season with a 3-0 victory over Bradley in the first game of their three-game weekend series. Friday marked the first time in coach Scott Norwood’s tenure that one of his teams started a season with five straight wins.
The team’s best start ever came in 1990 when they began 7-0, a feat that could be equaled with wins over Bradley on Saturday and Sunday. The Trojans have now recorded two consecutive shutouts and have not allowed a run in the last 25 innings.
Travis McDonald (2-0, 0.79 ERA) pitched a strong 6.1 innings and recorded six strikeouts for the win, and UALR got key hits from Hayden Martin and Tanner Rockwell to hand the Braves (3-1) their first loss on the season.
McDonald helped set the pace early, retiring Bradley’s first 11 hitters in order and picking up three strikeouts in that span before allowing a single up the middle with two outs in the fourth.
Bradley starter David Koll (0-1) equaled him batter for batter through two innings before the Trojans got their offense going. At the start of the third, UALR right fielder Sam Vogel legged out an infield single, just beating out a throw from the Braves’ third baseman. Two batters later, Martin ripped a double off the right-field wall, scoring Vogel to put the Trojans ahead 1-0.
Martin would eventually score UALR’s second run, moving to third base on a wild pitch before leadoff man Ben Crumpton brought him home with an RBI groundout to second base.
McDonald continued to impress through six innings, getting into only one small jam in the sixth. With runners on first and second, though, he struck out Tyler Leffler to escape unscathed.
The seventh inning proved troublesome as well, and he left the game with one out in the inning and two runners on base. The senior ended his outing with six strikeouts, bettering his total of five from his first start one week prior. He had just one walk on the day.
The situation proved no trouble for UALR reliever Jesse Harbin. For the second consecutive game, Harbin came in and immediately produced a 6-4-3 double play to retire the side.
Rockwell extended the Trojans’ lead in the bottom of the seventh, blasting a home run over the left field fence off Koll. The home run was his first of the season and just his second extra-base hit in five games. The junior then pulled double duty, coming out on the mound to pitch the top of the eighth. Though he did allow a walk, he retired the side in four batters and tallied one strikeout.
Brent Mason ended the game, recording his third save of the season. He allowed the first two runners to reach before inducing a double play and a fly out to left field.
The Trojans and Braves resume their weekend series Saturday at 3 p.m.