MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The UALR baseball team (15-14, 4-6 SBC) won its fourth-straight conference game and fifth-straight overall with an 11-1 victory over Middle Tennessee (16-16, 3-7 SBC) at Reese Smith Jr. Field on Friday. Senior Chance Cleveland improved to 4-4 on the year after limiting the Blue Raiders to just one run on six hits while racking up 11 strikeouts in 8.0 innings of work.
UALR put up its 11 runs on 13 hits, marking the third-straight game UALR has put up double-digit runs and double-digit hits. Senior Blake Johnson led the offensive charge by going 3-for-3 with four RBI and a homer. Junior Ben Crumpton went 2-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored, while senior John Clark added two hits and two runs scored. Junior Austin Pfeiffer and senior Chris Burk also collected two hits each in the contest.
Cleveland's 11 strikeouts were one off his career high of 12, which came in a 5-3 win over Troy on March 23, 2012. The Pine Bluff, Ark.-native issued just one walk in 8.0 innings of work on Friday. Senior Bubba Cooper came on to start the ninth and recorded two strikeouts in the final inning of work for the Trojans.
Hunter Adkins was handed the loss after surrendering seven runs on seven hits in 3.0 innings for the Blue Raiders. Kooper Kessler replaced Adkins and held UALR scoreless while allowing just two hits over the next 3.0 innings. The Trojans were able to put up four runs on four hits on Cody Tollison, who lasted 1.1 innings before giving way to Garrett Ring, who lasted the final 1.2 innings.
UALR wasted no time getting the offense started, putting up one run in the first before adding four in the second and two more in the top of the third.
A solo homer by Pfeiffer in the top of the first gave the Trojans a quick 1-0 lead. After Clark reached on an error and junior Kaleb Jobe drew a walk to lead off the second, junior Bryson Thionnet ripped a two-RBI double down the left field line to put UALR up 3-0. A double by Crumpton brought in Thionnet for the Trojans' third run of the inning, and an RBI single by Johnson later in the frame put UALR up 5-0 after the top of the second.
UALR scored two runs in the top of the third, as a single to right by Burk was followed with a two-run homer to left by sophomore Sam Vogel, giving UALR a 7-0 lead after the top of the third.
Three-straight two-out singles allowed Middle Tennessee to push across its first run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, making it a 7-1 game.
After both teams went scoreless over the next three innings, UALR plated four runs in the top half of the eighth. Vogel was hit by a pitch to start the frame, and Thionnet drew a walk to give the Trojans two men on with no outs. An RBI single by Crumpton allowed Vogel to cross home for the first UALR run of the inning. After Pfeiffer struck out swinging for the first out of the frame, Johnson hit a three-run homer on the first pitch of his at-bat to give UALR an 11-1 lead.
UALR and Middle Tennessee will play game two of their series on Saturday at 4 p.m. Senior right-hander Blake Huffman will get the start for UALR, while left-hander Johnathan Frebis will be on the hill for the Blue Raiders.
Patrick Newton:Assistant Sports Information Director