Congrats to Baseball Trojans – NCAA Tournament Bound

The College of Science and Mathematics sends Congratulations to the UALR Baseball Trojans for winning the 2011 Sun Belt Conference Championship and making the NCAA Baseball Tournament.

Congratulations also goes out to Senior Garret Graziano (Biology major) who was named Most Outstanding Player at the 2011 Sun Belt Tournament. Graziano was joined on the All-Tournament Team by junior Greg Garcia, and seniors Travis Henke (Health Science) and Casey McCollum (Health Science) … Garcia was also named Primetime Player of the Week by CollegeBaseball360.com for the week of May 23-29

Trojans Make NCAA Regional Debut Friday Night Against Oregon State
June 2, 2011

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The UALR baseball team opens its stay at the Corvallis Regional Friday night when it takes on host and No. 1-seed Oregon State (38-17) at 8 p.m. (CT). The No. 2-seed Creighton Bluejays (44-14) and the No. 3-seed Georgia Bulldogs (31-30) make up the other half of the Corvallis Regional, with the winner of the double-elimination format advancing to next week’s Super Regionals (June 10-13). Each game of the Corvallis Regional can be seen online at www.ESPN3.com.

LEADING OFF

UALR (24-32) made history last week at the 2011 Sun Belt Conference Tournament to earn the program’s first-ever NCAA Regional appearance … Making the program’s first Sun Belt Tournament appearance since 2003, the Trojans became the first No. 8 seed in league history to win the SBC Tournament, not to mention becoming the first No. 8 seed to even advance to the title game, with a 7-6 victory over Florida International … FIU had only lost one game since April 15 prior to losing to UALR, and had scored 10-or-more runs in all three of its tournament games leading up to the title game … UALR ended the regular season on a three-game losing streak, but went 4-0 in Monroe, La. with wins over four teams ranked in the top-100 in the RPI ratings at the time, including three top-50 RPI teams in FIU (31), Florida Atlantic (43) and Troy (47) … Troy and FIU were ranked No. 21 and No. 22 in Baseball America’s top-25 poll, respectively, when UALR defeated them at the SBC Tournament, giving the Trojans three wins over top-25 opponents this season … UALR defeated then-No. 2 Oklahoma, 7-0, on March 13 in Norman, Okla. behind a two-hit, complete-game shutout by senior Calvin Drinnen … UALR was just 4-10 in its previous five Sun Belt Tournament appearances since joining the league in 1992, and had never won more than one game at the SBC Tournament … UALR’s pitching staff ranked last in the Sun Belt with a 7.05 ERA in conference games during the regular season, but the Trojan staff combined for a 3.41 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .243 batting average at the SBC Tournament … Senior Garret Graziano was named Most Outstanding Player at the 2011 Sun Belt Tournament after going 2-0 with one save and a 1.59 ERA in three relief appearances … Graziano was joined on the All-Tournament Team by junior Greg Garcia, and seniors Travis Henke and Casey McCollum … Garcia was also named Primetime Player of the Week by CollegeBaseball360.com for the week of May 23-29 … The junior shortstop led the Trojans with a .467 batting average, seven runs scored and a .556 on-base percentage at the conference tournament … The Sun Belt Conference had three teams selected for the NCAA Tournament on Monday, with FIU earning an at-large bid as a No. 2 seed in the Chapel Hill Regional and Troy heading to the Nashville Regional as a No. 3 seed … The Sun Belt currently boasts the sixth-best RPI ranking in the nation according to www.WarrenNolan.com … The Trojans enter the Corvallis Regional with a RPI ranking of 158 and boast the 83rd toughest schedule in the nation … UALR will be one of three teams competing in its first NCAA Regional in 2011, along with Belmont and Alcorn State.

UALR VS. THE CORVALLIS REGIONAL

UALR does not have much familiarity with the teams in the Corvallis Regional, and has not faced any of the squads since taking on Creighton in 2007 … The Bluejays swept UALR in a three-game series when the two teams last met (March 3-4 in Little Rock) and hold a 7-3 lead in the all-time series … UALR’s last win over Creighton came at Gary Hogan Field, 6-4, on Feb. 12, 2006 … UALR and Oregon State have met just once, with the Beavers defeating UALR, 8-3, on Feb. 21, 2004 in Arlington, Texas … UALR and Georgia have never played one another … Head coach Scott Norwood has never faced any of the three teams in the regional.

ARMS RACE

UALR’s pitching staff was the main catalyst in the team’s Sun Belt Championship run, as the Trojan hurlers rose to the occasion and combined for a 3.41 ERA after ranking last in the SBC with a 7.05 team ERA in conference play this season … Senior Travis Henke set the tone for the weekend by holding regular-season champion Troy to two runs and seven hits over 8.0 innings in a 4-2 victory on Wednesday, which marked just the second time since 1995 the lowest-ranked team had knocked off the No. 1 seed in SBC Tournament play … Senior Calvin Drinnen followed Henke’s lead by holding Western Kentucky to six hits and two runs over 6.0 innings in a 9-5 victory … In the 5-3 win over Florida Atlantic, senior Daniel Golden allowed two runs over 3.0 innings in his first action since April 23, and three relievers combined to hold the Owls to two hits and one run over the final 6.0 innings … Henke came back out on short rest to start the championship game against FIU, and the Trojans got a lift from the bullpen once again as three relievers limited FIU to three hits and a run over the final 5.0 frames … Senior Garret Graziano was named Most Outstanding Player at the SBC Tournament after going 2-0 with one save and a 1.59 ERA in three relief appearances … Sophomore Bubba Cooper closed out the Trojans’ final two wins at the Sun Belt Tournament to pick up the first saves of his UALR career.

STREAKING

UALR has three players riding a hit streak of six games-or-more heading into the NCAA Regional, led by sophomore Myles Parma … The Memphis, Tenn.-native has hit safely in his last 10 games, which marks the longest hit streak by a Trojan this season … Parma leads the Trojans with a .355 batting average and a .447 on-base percentage this season … After playing sparingly in UALR’s first 17 games, totaling just four at-bats, Parma has started all 39 games since coming off the bench to go 1-for-1 against Arkansas State on March 18 … Junior Cameron Bentley has hit safely in his last seven games and is batting .458 during that stretch (11-24) to raise his season average to .280 … Over the last 10 games, Bentley leads the Trojans with a .382 batting average … Junior Greg Garcia is riding a six-game hitting streak, going 9-for-22 at the plate during that stretch (.409 avg.).

TAKING CHARGE

Senior Calvin Drinnen (6-6) has been UALR’s top pitcher over the last month of the season, going 3-1 with a 1.52 ERA over his last four starts … Drinnen has recorded a victory in three of his last four starts, with the lone exception being a game at Arkansas State (5/1) prior to the Sun Belt Tournament when he went just 3.0 innings with UALR’s seeding already determined … The Haysville, Kan.-native has allowed just four earned runs in his last 23.2 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .247 batting average … He went 7.2 innings in the win over ULM on May 8, allowing just five hits and one unearned run … He held FAU to eight hits and two runs over 7.0 innings on May 15 to lead the Trojans to a 4-2 victory … In the SBC Tournament, Drinnen limited WKU to six hits and two runs over 6.0 innings in a 9-5 victory … Drinnen is tied for the team lead with six victories and his 4.82 season ERA is tops among UALR’s starting pitchers … He was named Sun Belt Pitcher of the Week on March 15 after throwing a complete-game, two-hit shutout in a 7-0 win at then-No. 2 Oklahoma — the Sooners first loss of the year… Drinnen was also named to the National All-Star Lineup by the College Baseball Foundation, and was recognized as the Primetime Pitcher of the Week by CollegeBaseball360.

CLIMBING THE CHARTS

Senior Jason Houston enters the NCAA Regional in fifth place on UALR’s all-time list for career runs scored with 99 and needs to score just one more run to become only the fifth player in UALR history to score 100 runs in a career … Houston is also second on UALR’s all-time list for career home runs with 20 … The Kansas City, Mo.-native took sole possession of second place by belting two homers in UALR’s 9-5 win over WKU on May 26 … It was his first multi-homer game of the season and the third of his career, with the last coming against Belmont on April 9, 2010 … The Kansas City, Mo.-native leads the Trojans with 41 runs scored, 70 hits, 104 total bases and a .486 slugging percentage … On May 6, Houston was named to the Capital One Academic All-District VI Second Team … As a junior, Houston became the first Trojan since Kevin Kouzmanoff in 2002 to lead the Trojans in runs scored, RBI and homers.

THE MAN IN CHARGE

Head coach Scott Norwood came to UALR prior to the 2009 season looking to transform a struggling baseball program and needed just three years to make history … In his third season at the helm, Norwood has guided UALR to the school’s first-ever Sun Belt Tournament Championship and NCAA Regional … Norwood’s success should hardly come as a surprise though, considering his history of rebuilding baseball programs … Prior to coming to UALR, Norwood spent four seasons at Ouachita Baptist, where he quickly transformed a program which won a combined 45 games in the five years prior to his arrival into a national powerhouse – culminating with a runner-up finish at the 2008 NCAA Division II World Series … Norwood guided the Tigers past No. 1 Delta State in the 2008 NCAA South Central Regional championship game to give OBU the school’s first-ever World Series berth … After going 16-34 in his first season at UALR, Norwood guided the Trojans to a 29-25 record in 2010 — UALR’s first winning season since 2003 … The 11-game improvement placed UALR 11th nationally … In addition to its 11-game turnaround, UALR improved its RPI ranking by nearly 100 points in Norwood’s second season, climbing from a 233 ranking in 2009 to a 140 ranking in 2010 … Prior to taking over at UALR, Norwood compiled a 158-77 record (.672 pct.) in four seasons at OBU, including an astounding 101-26 mark over the final two years (.795) … In 11 seasons as a head coach, Norwood has a lifetime record of 358-231 (.608 pct.).

Trojans Claim First NCAA Regional Berth With 7-6 Win Over FIU In Sun Belt Championship Game
May 31, 2011

MONROE, La. – The UALR baseball team qualified for its first-ever NCAA Regional with a 7-6 victory over Florida International (40-18-1) in the Sun Belt Tournament Championship game at Warhawk Field on Sunday. The Trojans (24-32) put together a perfect 4-0 record at the Sun Belt Tournament to claim the program’s first SBC Tournament title and become the first No.8-seed in league history to win the conference championship.

UALR’s bullpen of Garret Graziano, Ryan Juris and Bubba Cooper combined to hold the high-powered FIU offense to three hits and one run over the final 5.0 innings, and junior Hector Acosta scored the deciding run in the top of the sixth on an error by the Golden Panthers.

Graziano picked up the win after limiting FIU to two hits and a run over 2.1 innings in relief of UALR starter Travis Henke. The Oklahoma City, Okla.-native was named the Sun Belt Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after going 2-0 with one save and a 1.59 earned run average in three relief appearances. Graziano was joined on the All-Sun Belt Tournament Team by Henke, junior Greg Garcia and senior Casey McCollum.

The Trojans will now await tomorrow’s NCAA Selection Show to find out where they are headed. The NCAA Selection Show will be televised at 11:30 a.m. (CT) on ESPN.

Juris took the mound for UALR in the top of the seventh with the Trojans leading 7-6, and a runner on first and one out. The senior left-hander struck out Rudy Flores before picking off Jeremy Patton to end the inning, and then retired the Golden Panthers in-order in the eighth before giving way to Cooper at the start of the ninth. The Marion, Ark.-native allowed a leadoff walk to Yoandy Barroso and a two-out single to Garrett Wittels, but got Patton to ground out to third to end the game and pick up his second save in as many days.

Sophomore Myles Parma and McCollum provided most of the offense for UALR on Sunday, with both players hitting a home run during a five-run rally in the second. McCollum gave the Trojans a 3-2 lead with a two-run blast to left, and Parma followed three batters later with a three-run shot to left center. McCollum and Acosta led the Trojans with two hits apiece in the win, with Acosta scoring the game-winning run in the top of the sixth as his slide into third on a stolen base attempt jarred the ball from Patton’s glove and allowed him to take home.

FIU reliever Kyle Fitzpatrick (7-2) was tagged with the loss, despite allowing just two hits and one unearned run, with six strikeouts, over 4.0 innings. Patton went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBI to lead the way for the Golden Panthers. FIU’s four pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts in the loss, but starter Daniel DeSimone allowed five hits and six runs (five earned) over 1.1 innings.

The Trojans jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first after Garcia opened the game with a leadoff single to center. Garcia stole second base and moved over to third as the throw to the bag from FIU catcher Jose Behar sailed into the outfield. Junior Nick Rountree made it a 1-0 contest when he plated Garcia with a two-out, infield single to third.

UALR’s lead didn’t last long however, as Flores gave the Golden Panthers a 2-1 lead in the bottom half with a two-out, two-run homer to left. Henke retired the first two batters of the game, but Patton came through with a two-out single and Flores followed with a two-run shot to left.

UALR erupted for five runs in the top of the second to take a 6-2 lead, fueled by home runs from McCollum and Parma. McCollum put the Trojans back on top when he followed up a double by Acosta with a two-run shot to deep left – his second homer of the year. Junior Cameron Bentley and Garcia drew walks off of DeSimone and Parma made him pay with a three-run homer off the scoreboard in left center to give UALR a 6-2 lead and chase FIU’s starter from the game.

Trailing by four, the Golden Panthers rallied for three runs in the bottom of the third to make it a one-run ballgame. Patton got the rally going for FIU with a two-run homer to right, and the Golden Panthers soon loaded the bases with one out off a pair of singles and a hit batter. Behar brought FIU within a run with a RBI single through the right side, but Henke was able to get outs from the next two batters to strand a pair of runners.

Graziano came on to pitch for Henke at the start of the fifth, and the Golden Panthers rallied to tie things up at 6-all thanks to a pair of doubles from Patton and Mike Martinez. FIU was able to work its way back into the game behind the relief efforts of Fitzpatrick, who held the Trojans to two hits with six strikeouts over 4.0 innings in relief of DeSimone.

UALR finally got something going off of Fitzpatrick in the top of the sixth as Acosta and McCollum both walked to put two runners on with one out. Jose Velazquez took the mound in relief of Fitzpatrick after the second walk, but could not prevent UALR from reclaiming the lead. With two runners on and two outs, Acosta attempted to steal third and was thrown out by Behar. The ball got away from Patton, however, and Acosta was able to score on the play to put the Trojans ahead 7-6.

2011 Sun Belt Conference All-Tournament Team
Greg Garcia, UALR
Garrett Graziano, UALR
Travis Henke, UALR
Casey McCollum, UALR
Jordan Castaldo, Arkansas State
Andy Ferguson, Arkansas State
Nick DelGuidice, Florida Atlantic
Rudy Flores, FIU
R.J. Fondon, FIU
Jeremy Patton, FIU
Adam Bryant, Troy
Tyler Hannah, Troy
Matt Rice, WKU

Most Outstanding Player
Garrett Graziano, UALR

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