Scouting Report: Arkansas-Little Rock
For way too long, Arkansas-Little Rock has been one of the doormats of the Sun Belt Conference.
Former head coach Brian Rhees used to say that the LR stood for "last resort." That was before UALR put down new Astroturf in the infield, built a climate-controlled hitting facility and started funding all of its 11.7 scholarships.
It hasn't made much of a difference in the standings, but UALR has improved under third year coach Scott Norwood.
UALR got off to a good start in league play, taking series from Arkansas State and Western Kentucky. But the Trojans have been swept in their last two series (at South Alabama and FIU at home) and are in a tie for ninth place in the league at 6-12.
Earlier in the season, UALR was getting decent pitching, but that has fallen by the wayside the last few weeks. In fact, in Sun Belt play, the Trojans' ERA is over eight runs per game. Ouch.
UALR competes because they're good defensively and improved offensively.
The Trojans have made 44 errors for a .971 fielding percentage. They've allowed about the same number of unearned runs as the Cajuns have. Their .282 team batting average is very similar to the Cajuns as well. So is the number of home runs they've hit (22) and their slugging percentage.
UALR boasts three hitters over .300. Myles Parma is among the league leaders in hitting at .388 and his on-base percentage is nearly .500. Nick Rountree (.311) leads the club in homers with seven. Returnee Jason Houston is the other regular hitting over .300 (.343.) Jake Rowell, another returning player, leads the club in doubles (14) and RBI (34). UALR averages just over five runs and nine hits per game.
Norwood has used a lot of different pitchers this year trying to get someone to pitch consistently Calvin Drinnen pitched a 2-0 shutout against Oklahoma earlier this year and was named SBC Pitcher of the Week for his efforts. Drinnen at the time was 2-1. He's now 3-4, his ERA is over six and he is not listed as one of the weekend starters for this weekend. Travis Henke, who started the season in the bullpen, will get the Friday night start. He's 1-3, 5.67 and has given up 71 hits in fewer than 47 innings.
Ryan Juris (1-2, 6.04) is a lefty who will start on Saturday. Juris will make his fifth start. Nick Grimmett has been UALR's most reliable reliever. Grimmett (2-0, 3.26) has pitched over 30 innings for the Trojans this season.
Norwood obviously hasn't been pleased with Drinnen or Garrett Graziano (3-6, 6.56) lately as he has not yet named a Sunday starter. It will probaby be one of those two, however.
Compounding UALR's issues is their road record. They are 5-13 away from Gary Hogan Field and have not won a road conference game (0-6). In league play, Juris has the best numbers with a 4.62 ERA. Henke's league ERA is seven and a half. Drinnen and Graziano are in double figures.
The Cajuns have won thirteen straight against UALR. Their last loss was in 2006, when the Trojans got eight runs in the ninth inning off closer Chad Beck and freshman Danny Farquhar and beat the Cajuns 12-11 in Little Rock.
Gametimes are 6;05 Friday, 3:05 Saturday and 1:00 Sunday. Games can be heard on News/Talk 96.5 KPEL.