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McCollum's Column: UCA-UALR pass up Round 2 for an exciting round of baseball

Posted: April 24, 2014 - 4:32pm

Round 2 didn’t happen. Round 1 was rendered to a bad memory.

The University of Central Arkansas Bears and the UALR Trojans engaged in plain, pure, exciting college baseball Wednesday night at Gary Hogan Field in Little Rock.

The contest helped blot the image of a bench-clearing brawl when the teams played on April 2 in Conway, one that resulted in seven player suspensions and one coach suspension.

When the video went viral — showing the fracas that was triggered by coaches Allen Gum of UCA and Scott Norwood of UALR going face-to-face in a heated argument — it received 250,000 views on one website, UCA Athletic Director Brad Teague said in a radio interview. The previous high mark was 225,000 when UCA unveiled its striped football field. Usually, videos linked to a university website get no more than 10,000 views.

Not even close to a raw WWE event this time. In old-school wrestling terms, this was a scientific match.

Both coaches and players, getting ready for the stretch runs in their respective conferences, showed they had moved on.

The ugly situation furnished a chance for Gum and Norwood, who both apologized publicly and imposed on themselves one-game suspensions for their part in the brawl, to show to their players how to learn from mistakes and move forward, scarred but wiser. Wednesday, the two coaches exchanged the routine smiles and handshakes before the game.

Then, the contest was a dandy, as good as a college midweek baseball game can get.

Players on both sides responded well to the rematch. The poster child for that was Conway’s Tyler Langley, who was suspended after the first contest for throwing punches. Langley came out Wednesday and responded like a good player should — with his bat and his glove. He had three doubles and made a superb running catch against the wall in right field.

The Trojans responded by coming from behind to send a hot UCA team back to Conway with a 7-6 defeat.

The game drew a crowd of 471, largest of the season at UALR. It probably attracted the most media attention of any UCA-UALR game.

And that was a silver lining.

It gave more exposure to how two rival in-state baseball teams could engage in exciting back-and-forth baseball.

The UCA-UALR series has been a great one on the field the past few years, with three straight games going into extra innings. Most have been decided by a run or in the last inning.

UCA was coming off a thrilling, 4-3 victory over Arkansas State. UALR had lost 6-5 to Arkansas-Pine Bluff the night before.

There is a lot of parity among Arkansas Division-I college teams, and they usually provide their share of thrills and entertainment when they go against each other.

Also this week, Hendrix, of NCAA Division-III, and Arkansas Tech, No. 4 in D-II, engaged in a tightly played doubleheader. Last week, Central Baptist College, of the NAIA, prevailed in a highly-contested game against Hendrix.

Meanwhile Wednesday, the University of Arkansas completed a dominating, two-game sweep over Northwestern State on Wednesday night. The Bears play a weekend conference series at Northwestern State this week.

Maybe the Hogs are a cut above the other college teams. We don’t know because there is no head-to-head gauge.

What we do know is when state college rivals go at it and the main focus is the game, the result is still very compelling and a lot of fun.

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

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