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McCollum's Column: Musings on high school basketball, Sugar Bear basketball, college strike zone and UCA softball

Posted: February 26, 2014 - 8:12pm

With a variety pack of sports, here’s serving up a fresh batch of “David’s Appetizers,” assorted musings on the sports scene:

 

TOURNEY TIME

With state tournaments looming next week, most Faulkner County teams are in a scramble for seeding, either in regional or conference play.

The only team whose seed in state is known is the Vilonia girls, the 5A-West champion and will have a top seed in the tourney at Alma.

The Conway boys put themselves in the 12-team 7A bracket Tuesday with a victory over Little Rock Catholic but will have to wait after Friday’s regular-season finale at Greenwood to determine the seeding.

The 7A/6A Central seeding is wild with all six seeds up for grabs going into the regular-season finales involving Fort Smith Northside, Conway, North Little Rock, West Memphis, Little Rock Central and Fort Smith Southside.

The fate of teams from Mayflower, St. Joseph, Conway Christian, Guy-Perkins and Mount Vernon-Enola will be decided in regional play.

 

THE NEW ZONE

One issue with college baseball teams this season is the new strike zone by the NCAA.

No longer will pitches be called strikes that are borderline outside of the corner of the plate. The height of the strike zone has been raised from the top of the knee to the letters.

“Our pitchers are having to make adjustments and our hitters are having to make adjustments,” said UCA coach Allen Gum, whose team’s pitching and hitting strategy is based on a system slanted toward getting on base and playing small ball.

For the pitchers, some low and outside pitches that were strikes last year are now balls. For the hitters, those high hard ones that they have been taught to lay off are now being called strikes.

“The rules favor talent and power; they favor the teams with pitchers who throw 90 miles per hour,” Gum said. “As far as strike zone discipline, we’re back at square one. But that’s part of the process. Everyone is having to adjust.”

 

UCA SOFTBALL

Despite an 4-11 start to the season entering Wednesday’s doubleheader against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, UCA softball coach David Kuhn still believes the Bears, with a lot of youth and new faces, can contend for the Southland Conference title.

“We are young and learning,” he said at this week’s Bearbacker luncheon. “We are kind of snakebit right now with timely hitting. The ball is just not falling for us. We’ve had one bad inning in a lot of our games.”

 

SUGAR BEARS

The University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears faced a crucial homestand Thursday and Saturday before ending the regular season with a road trip to Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin.

If the Bears get past Sam Houston State at the Farris Center tonight, they will play second-place Lamar for the inside track in the conference race.

The top two teams in the regular-season standings receive byes to the semifinals of the conference tournament, which is huge because some teams will have to win four games instead of two to win the tourney championship and earn the automatic NCAA bid.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net)

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