Diamond Hogs rally late to fend off Army challenge

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2023-03-07 19:56 PM


For the longest time on Tuesday, Arkansas took the whole Military Appreciation Day thing at Baum-Walker Stadium thing a bit too literal.

Army was up 4-0 and Black Knights senior starting pitcher Robbie Buecker was baffling Arkansas  while limiting the Razorbacks to three hits through five scoreless innings.

But Jared Wegner clubbed a three-run homer off reliever Sean Dennehey in the sixth to get his team close and Jace Bohrofen hit a game-tying solo blast off him an out later.

That would put Arkansas in position to win the game when Kendall Diggs launched a three-blast in the eighth that handed the Razorbacks a 7-5 victory.

“I think it was an exciting ball game,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “You can say it is a Tuesday night in March, but that was a good win for our team.

“…There was a little extra today. I think our players recognize it. It’s a little different when you go to a school like Army. I mean you are representing everybody. 

“You could tell that our fans wanted us to win, but they probably were okay if we lost. 

That’s kind of the sense I got. You respect it.”

It was the first service academy that the Razorbacks (10-2) had played in 20 years, since a 10-9 win over Navy in Memphis in 2003.

“Down 4-0 with maybe four innings left to play or something like that and their pitcher was doing a good job,” Van Horn said.

“He has been more of a reliever. He is a senior and he threw like 20 pitches on Friday and I think he threw 7 pitches on Sunday against K-State and I am sure he said ‘give me the ball against Arkansas.”

Van Horn noted his hitters were off balance by Buecker.

“He did not throw the ball in the middle of the plate, 87 miles per hour on both sides. We hit into three double plays and it just started looking like maybe this wasn’t our night.”

Army (5-6) outhit Arkansas 12-8 during the game, but the Razorbacks clout late proved decisive.

“We stayed strong and I believe in this offense and just felt like if guys wouldn’t try to do too much and take a walk, hit a single, go the other way then somebody might pop one,” Van Horn said. “Obviously that is kind of what happened in sixth.”   

Army head coach Chris Tracz admitted to being surprised by the length of Buecker’s start.

“Robbie was scheduled for probably an inning or maybe two and it ended up being 5 1/3 I think,” Tracz said. “He did a good job mixing it and got two or three double plays. I think he had all of them, which just kept his pitch count down and got us off the field.”

Buecker said he had all three of his pitches working.

I felt good,” Buecker said. “I had three pitches working for me, I was getting a lot of ground balls in big spots and I felt like it was coming out really clean and really easy.

“Fast ball, slider and change up. Change up got a lot of guys off the heater so it is always good when you can mix in three pitches for strikes.”

Buecker was fine with being taken out in the sixth.

“I felt like it was a good time and there are guys in the back end of the bullpen that do a really good job,” Buecker said. “I had full confidence they were going to come in, fill it up and get outs.

“It’s never a bad thing when you have guys behind you like we do.”

Ross Fredrick was 4 of 5 at the plate and Sam Ruta 3 of 4 for the Blak Knights.

 “Ross Friedrick and Sam Ruta, they are the heart and soul of our offense and when they get going, we can put up runs and I think we had 10-plus hits today, scored five runs and had some other opportunities,” Tracz said. “We will go as far as they can kind of take us.”

Arkansas, which found out Koty Frank would join Jackson Wiggins on the season-ending pitcher injury list, used three pitchers on Tuesday.

Parker Coil started and went 3 2/3 innings while giving up three runs and was followed to the mound by Austin Ledbetter.

Ledbetter allowed a run on three hits in 2 1/3 innings.

Dylan Carter (2-0) pitched the final three innings and allowed one run to get the win.

“Those kids hit the ball really hard,” Buecker said. “Even their outs are loud. They got a couple in big spots and we kind of missed opportunities a couple of times to shut them down and that kind of happens against a good team.”

Arkansas begins a three-game with Louisiana Tech Friday at 3 p.m. in a non-televised game.

Photo by John D. James

(Last updated: 2023-03-07 19:56 PM)