LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – UALR (20-26, 8-15) completed its first Sun Belt Conference series sweep since 2003 on Sunday afternoon by downing Troy, 8-2, at Gary Hogan Field. The Trojans took a 4-0 lead in the third and rode a solid performance from junior Nathan Parker, who allowed just six hits and one run in his first-ever Sun Belt start.
“We had our backs against the wall this weekend, and taking three from Troy is a huge accomplishment for this team. I’m just really proud of the kids for the way they bounced back,” said UALR head coach Jim Lawler. “Three left handed starters went out this weekend and each gave us great performances.”
Parker (3-3) blanked Troy for the first six innings to lead the Trojans to their first Sun Belt sweep since taking three from Arkansas State during the 2003 season (May 2-4). Leading 5-1, senior Ryan Gotcher erased any hopes of a Troy comeback with a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh (his fifth of the year).
Troy starter Ryan Ellison retired the first six batters he faced but didn’t have the same luck in the third, as a leadoff walk to senior Matt King led to a four-run inning by the Trojans. Senior Tyler Mason followed King’s walk with a double to right center, with both runners coming around to score on a two-run single to right by senior Brian Smiley.
A bunt single by junior Nick DeSanctis put two men on, with both runners moving up on a double steal. With runners on second and third, senior Brett Lawler ripped a two-run double to left center to give UALR a 4-0 lead. Ellison would walk junior Osvaldo Torres before being pulled for reliever Josh Dew with two runners on and two out. Dew escaped the jam without further damage by fanning the first batter he faced.
After six scoreless frames, Troy finally got in the scoring column in the top of the seventh after Parker issued a leadoff walk to Ben Woods. Parker followed the walk by getting outs from the next two batters he faced before a single by Beau Brooks chased him from the game. Junior Steve Gilgenbach took the mound for Parker with two runners on and two outs, but could not keep the shutout intact as Ian Craze delivered a RBI single through the right side to make it a 4-1 contest. Gilgenbach fanned Edgar Ramirez to end the inning and prevent Troy from pulling any closer.
UALR answered in the bottom of the seventh with four runs off Dew to extend its lead to 8-1. Dew had thrown three scoreless innings after taking the mound in the fourth, but ran into trouble in the seventh after surrendering consecutive infield singles to junior Nick DeSanctis and Lawler. Junior Robert Taylor followed with a run-scoring base knock to right center to make it a 5-1 contest, before Gotcher put Troy away with a three-run homer to right.
Troy tacked on another run in the top of the ninth, off a solo homer from pinch hitter Bryan Miller, but could not rally against Gilgenbach, who worked the final 2.1 innings to pick up his team-leading second save.
Parker went a career-long 6.2 innings in the win, allowing six hits, one run and two walks, with four strikeouts. Ellison (3-2) took the loss after allowing four hits and four runs over 2.2 innings of work.
Dew led the Troy offense with a 2-for-4 day at the plate (both doubles), while four players enjoyed multi-hit afternoons for UALR. Mason went 2-for-3 with a run scored and two doubles, while Lawler and Smiley drove in two runs a piece.
UALR returns to action next weekend when it heads to Lafayette, La. for a three-game series with the Ragin’ Cajuns (May 11-13).
“We’re starting to play more as a team down the stretch and that’s exciting,” added Lawler. “We’ve got our hands full next weekend going to Lafayette. They’re the number one team in the league, but Troy was number two, so we’ll see what we can do.”