CONWAY, Ark. -- Southeastern Louisiana went to the arm of relief pitcher Tate Scioneaux in the championship game of the Southland Conference tournament to defeat Central Arkansas 9-4 to claim the program’s first league title.
The win also locked up the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Division I championship, which will be the Lions’ third overall and first appearance since 1994.
The No. 5 seed Lions (37-23) claimed their first title after reaching the championship game the previous two seasons, including a 4-0 loss in last year’s championship to the Bears. The loss snapped UCA’s eight-game tournament winning streak.
Scioneaux, the tournament most outstanding player, came into the game in the fourth inning to stop the UCA hitting. The Bears scored four runs before Scioneaux entered the game. The right-hander pitched more than five innings of shutout ball, giving up only four hits and a walk while striking out eight Bears. For the tournament, Scioneaux pitched 11 innings of scoreless ball while striking out 12 hitters and only surrendering nine hits and two walks. Scioneaux threw 91 pitches to pick up his first save of the year.
Jason Greenleaf picked up the win for the Lions after 1.2 innings of work. Greenleaf, who moved to 1-0 on the year, gave up two unearned runs on three hits while striking out one. UCA starter Bryce Biggerstaff lasted only into the second inning after six runs, four earned, on seven hits and one walk. He struck out one in falling to 7-6 on the year.
Southeastern jumped on the board early, pushing six runs across in the first two innings. In the top of the first, the Lions loaded the bases with a Jacob Seward single, Jameson Fisher fielder’s choice error and a Brett Hoffman walk. Daniel Midyett drove in the game’s first run with an infield single to Biggerstaff. Midyett’s shot hit off Biggerstaff’s glove, but it was too hot from the UCA pitcher to handle, which allowed Seward to score. Fisher would eventually score the second Southeastern run when Sam Roberson grounded out to second base.
Singles by Seward and Fisher and a hit by a pitch by Andrew Godbold loaded the bases again for the Lions in the second inning. Southeastern would then bring four more runs across with two consecutive two-RBI singles from Hoffman and Midyett.
UCA would chip away from the Lions’ lead in the bottom half of the second inning. Tyler Langley and Scott Zimmerle would reach base for the Bears to start the inning. After both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt from Justin Treece, Langley would come around to score on a sacrifice fly from Charles Deckard. Doug Votolato would get his eighth hit and fifth RBI of the tournament with an infield single, bringing home Zimmerle to make the score 6-2.
The Bears would added two more runs in the fourth inning after loading the bases with singles from Deckard and Carson Dowdle and Wesley Hoover reaching on a fielding error. Chris Townsend would pick up an RBI after being hit by a pitch and Nate Ferrell would draw an RBI walk.
The Lions answered the Bears’ four consecutive runs with a run the sixth inning. After Jacob Williams doubled to third base, Fisher brought home his first RBI of the tournament with a single to center field to up the Lions’ lead to 7-4.
The Lions puts the game out of reach in the eighth inning by tacking on two more runs. Southeastern put together a two-out rally with three consecutive hits from Seward, Fisher and Godbold. Godbold’s single drove in Seward and Fisher to give the Lions the 9-4 lead.
The Lions will find out where they will go in the NCAA tournament on Monday. The tournament selection show will be televised on ESPNU at noon ET.
Central Arkansas finished its season 32-22 after reaching the championship game for the second consecutive year.