The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

June 1, 2014

College baseball: Bucknell's season ends with loss in NCAA's to Arkansas

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Less than 24 hours after securing its second-ever NCAA tournament win in program history, the Bucknell baseball team ran into a buzzsaw in the form of SEC powerhouse Arkansas on Sunday afternoon.  

The Razorbacks scored early and often, en route to a decisive 10-0 victory, bringing the Bison’s record-breaking season to a close in game five of the Charlottesville regional.

Former Danville High School standout Andrew Andreychik got the start for Bucknell and the sophomore faced angry group of Razorbacks looking to rebound off of a disappointing, two-hit performance against Virginia on Saturday night.  

Things went south quickly for Andreychik. After cleanup hitter Brian Anderson singled to left field to load the bases for Arkansas, the ensuing batter Eric Fisher blasted a 3-2 pitch to right field to bring home two runs, and the floodgates would soon open.

Andreychik allowed his third straight single to bring home yet another run for the Razorbacks. Arkansas sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first alone, recording six hits, and scoring four runs.

The 2013 Patriot League Rookie of the Year allowed two more runs in the top of the third, and was pulled after allowing nine hits and six runs, in only 2.1 innings on the hill.

“Andrew came out with a little bit better velocity than he usually has, but it kind of brought him up in the zone and flattened him out a little bit,” Bucknell head coach Scott Heather said. “He started to kind of fall behind and got in fastball situations. (Arkansas) jumped on him a little bit, and came out ready to go. “

 Andreychik was relived by left-handed pitcher, Xavier Hammond in the third inning, and walked into a dire situation, coming in with the bases loaded and just one out. Hammond did not fare much better than his predecessor, allowing his first batter faced, Clark Eagen, to single up the middle and bring home another Razorback run.

The Razorbacks increased their lead to 6-0 in the middle of the third. Hammond lasted three innings, giving up five hits and four runs.

The Bison used three different arms in the final innings of their season, including Kra Max, Mike Castellani, and Tucker Rekucki.

On the other side, Sunday’s contest marked the return of Arkansas hurler Jalen Beeks, who missed a month of action with an elbow injury. In his first game back against the Bison, Beeks struck out nine batters and allowed just three hits, in five innings of work.

“I thought (Beeks) did a great job of establishing his fastball in the first inning,” Heather noted. “We’re in the dugout trying to get our guys fastball ready, and we had a situation there where we had some guys in scoring position, and that’s when he started to use his breaking ball, and we went out of a zone there, and got in some tough counts to hit.”

Unlike Saturday’s game against Liberty when Bucknell fell behind early and responded right away, the Bison’s offense could not find their form, going hitless in the final seven innings.

Bucknell was dealt a tough blow in the bottom of the first, when Joe Ogren doubled with two outs only to be gunned down while trying to slide into third base.

The Bison then left a pair of runners in scoring position in the bottom of the second, and wouldn’t pose any real threat until the sixth inning.

Anthony Gingerelli walked to lead off the sixth frame and would work his way to third base after Jon Mayer was pegged and pinch-hitter Danny Rafferty was walked. However, Bucknell could not take advantage, as the ensuing batter, Carter Austin, struck out looking to end the inning.

“I’m disappointed with our performance offensively,” Heather said. “I thought we took a lot of good fastballs, and swung the off-speed out of the zone, which is the opposite of what we want to do.”

Heather’s most successful season at Bucknell comes to an end at the hands of his alma mater. The second-year head coach graduated from Arkansas in 2003, the same year that the Bison and Razorbacks met in the NCAA Tournament in the Austin, Texas regional.

“I tried not to think about it too much,” Heather said of the Arkansas connection. “I wanted it to be a normal game for our guys, and maybe on the bus back, I’ll think about it a little more. At times it hit me that the Razorbacks were on the other side there, and it certainly was an honor to play all three teams this weekend.”

 Bucknell will bid farewell to seven seniors who played their final game in a Bison uniform on Sunday. The senior class was celebrated in the ninth inning, when fourth-year outfielder Corey Furman entered the contest as a pinch runner for Brett Ashley, which drew a rousing applause from the Bucknell faithful in attendance.

Co-captain Justin Meier is the only full-time starter who will be moving on, and he says that his final season at Bucknell was one to remember.

“It took us four years to get here and it’s been a hell of a ride this year,” Meier said. “I can’t say enough about our team; our coaches, they did a great job of preparing us and we did a great job of battling all year. That’s the way you want to go out; you don’t want to beat yourself, you want to get beat by the other team.

“I’m proud of what we did this year, and we have a bright future going forward.”

Bucknell finishes the 2014 campaign with an overall record of 31-21-1, setting a program record for wins in a single season. The Bison brought home both the Patriot League regular season and tournament titles, and earned the school’s first NCAA tournament victory in six years.  Heather is encouraged by his team’s 14-game win improvement from last year and hopes that his club can build off of this season’s success.

“I talked about it in the wrap up meeting, that we need to take the next step; the next step for us is fully competing at the national level,” Heather said. “It’s exciting to get our feet wet in the NCAA tournament. We certainly want to compete better than today. It was a disappointing way to end for us, but a lot to build on with the way the guys played, and so many young guys competing.”

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