Chris Brannick, Director of Sports Media Relations
MAGNOLIA, Ark. – The University of Central Oklahoma baseball team’s season came to an end Sunday afternoon with a 10-5 loss to Southern Arkansas in the NCAA Central Regional. The Bronchos finished the 2018 campaign 37-21.
“I’m proud of this team for the way they fought down the stretch,” UCO head baseball coach John Martin said. “We had a lot of chances to keep this going and it just didn’t work out for us, but the guys showed a lot of fight to get to this point and they need to be proud of that. This senior class, there are a lot of them, they all need to be proud of what they’ve done this year and over the past couple of seasons.”
The Bronchos had their chances Sunday. UCO scattered nine hits on the day. But Central left eight runners on base and had two more thrown out running the bases.
Southern Arkansas jumped out to an early lead Sunday afternoon. Gaylon Viney got the start for the Bronchos and threw three walks in the top of the first inning. He had two outs and a full count before surrendering a three-RBI double to put the Bronchos in a 3-0 early deficit.
The Bronchos responded. Justin Brown reached on a throwing error to lead off the bottom of the first, and moved the second on a wild pitch. After Kyle Miskovsky popped out, Xavier Freeman drilled a 3-2 pitch over the fence in left center to make it 3-2 SAU.
Viney settled in and had a strong top of the second, getting three quick outs including his second strikeout of the game. In the third though, Southern Arkansas got back after at the plate. Back-to-back doubles made it 4-2 before Viney was replaced by Landon Bond. Viney finished with 2 1/3 innings pitched, three hits allowed, four runs and two strikeouts.
UCO tried to get something going in the third after Brown led off with a walk. Trae Smith got on with a single to right center, but with two outs, the Bronchos tried a strategic delayed double steal and Smith was picked off in a run down before Brown could take off for home and SAU kept the score 4-2.
UCO brought it to within one in the fourth, when Dayne Sommer scored on a bases loaded double play to make it 4-3.
But Southern Arkansas kept it going with a little more run support in each inning. The Muleriders added two in the fifth of Broncho reliever Ben Wusterbarth and another in the sixth on a solo homer that made it 7-3.
UCO responded with a rally in the bottom of the sixth. Paul Kropf led off with a walk and later scored when Xavier Warren hit a double to left center just over the shortstop’s head. That made it 7-4 and sparked a Southern Arkansas pitching change and the reliever walked Brown to load the bases. However, Eric White found his way out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts to get out of the inning.
Wusterbarth kept Southern Arkansas at bay in the seventh, and in the bottom half of the inning, Kropf smacked his first postseason home run to cut the lead to 7-5.
Josh Rutland came on in relief of Wusterbarth to start the eighth and Southern Arkansas just kept pressing at the plate. Rutland got the leadoff hitter to pop-up on the first play, but then gave up a double, walked a batter, and gave up a three-run home run to break the game open and give SAU a 10-5 lead.
That lead was too much in the end. The Bronchos struck out 10 SAU batters Sunday. Bond and Wusterbarth each had three Ks, Viney and Rutland had two. JJ Rogers threw the ninth and kept Southern Arkansas at bay once more before the final Broncho effort.