Tuesday's UCA baseball practice was more like a victory lap.
A short practice was followed by a long media session. I asked to speak to a couple of players. We ended up speaking to at least five Bears and Head Coach Allen Gum.
This is big. Real big for UCA.
This wasn't supposed to happen. A year ago, these Bears made history when they qualified for the Southland Conference tourney. 30 or 35 wins this season, a win or two in the Southland tourney and Bear Nation would be satisfied.
As the 7 seed, UCA was considered a long shot to win the Southland tourney. After losing game one of the tourney, I don't think even Coach Gum liked their chances. The 10 seniors on this team faced five potential career-ending games. 5 wins in 3 days = one big dog pile.
Allen Gum will freely admit that he doesn't have one of the more talented teams in the tourney but statistically speaking, these Bears are the most disciplined team in all of college baseball.
There's "Money Ball" and there's "Gum Ball."
With "Gum Ball," the goal is to get to first base any way you can. You've heard the saying that a walk is as good as a hit. That's "Gum Ball." UCA leads the nation in walks. Coach Allen Gum also encourages his Bears to "take one for the team." UCA is third in the nation in hit-by-pitches. They also lead the nation in sacrifice bunts.
Bear pitcher Caleb McClanahan is the poster boy for "Gum Ball." 110 innings and only 10 walks. UCA is second in the country in least walks allowed.
The goal is get as many "freebies" as possible and limit your opponent's "freebies."
"Gum Ball" is a statistical success. UCA enters the NCAA tourney ranked 16th out of 296 teams in runs scored and 15th in team earned run average.
Win or lose this weekend, I'm a big believer in "Gum Ball."