Bears battle No. 5 Hogs to the wire

FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Central Arkansas Bears kept the 5th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks in the ballpark Tuesday night and battled hard before falling 6-3 before a crowd of 10,052 at Baum-Walker Stadium.

The Bears (16-20) and Razorbacks (30-7) were tied 3-3 at the stretch before Arkansas small-balled three runs in the bottom of the seventh. A fly ball lost in the lights, an infield single, an error, a hit batter and a wild pitch allowed the Razorbacks to grab the lead. 

Cade Fenton

UCA got two baserunners on in the eighth and two more in the ninth but could not never tie it.

“I think we just missed an opportunity to finish the inning,” said UCA head coach Nick Harlan. “And then it just kind of got away from us there a little bit. But that’s part of it. In games like this, you have a small margin for error. Any time you play a quality opponent, which of course they are, you don’t have margin for error. 

“So the little things you have to do really well. And when the opportunity presents itself, you have to execute. So that’s it. We’re just going to focus on the execution, where we executed and where we didn’t. And there were some moments there where we just didn’t.

The Bears grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the top of the 2nd when Mason King and Evan Hafley were both hit by a pitch. King stole third and a throw behind Hafley from the Arkansas catcher was off target, allowing King to score.

The Razorbacks, who improved to 25-3 at home this season, answered back with three runs in the bottom of the inning on five hits before junior lefthander Brady Walker came on in relief of starter Dillan Janak and got an infield fly and a ground out to end the threat.

UCA tied it in the top of the seventh when first baseman Evan Hafley led off with a base hit and catcher Noah Argenta followed with his second home run of the season into the UCA bullpen in left field. Argenta finished 2 for 4, as did center fielder Drew Sturgeon.

UCA senior right hander Cade Fenton tossed 4.1 innings of solid middle relief, allowing six hits and two earned runs while striking out four. 

“Fenton was really good,” said Harlan. “Fenton executed two pitches in the zone competitively. And he threw both of those pitches in any count. And that’s why he was able to keep them off balance. He was ahead, he stayed ahead. You stay ahead, you throw two pitches and you can locate them, you’ll have good results.

“I just wanted him to go out there and pitch with confidence like he’s capable of doing. Wanted to him to have a good level head and a solid approach, and he surely demonstrated that.”

The Bears’ pitching staff did not allow an Arkansas home run, breaking the Razorbacks’ nation-leading 32-game streak of at least one home run.

“I thought our pitchers did a nice job,” said Harlan. “I thought we left a couple of pitches up with runners in scoring position and they got off some good swings, and naturally most teams would do that. But I thought for the most part, we were making good pitches, mixing speeds, down in the zone. And we were engaged defensively, ready to make plays. We made a couple of mistakes but I didn’t think it was because of lack of engagement.

“We did a good job of keeping the ball down in the zone. And we made good pitches when we were ahead in the count.”

UCA returns to Bear Stadium and to ASUN Conference play this weekend, taking on the Stetson Hatters for the first time First pitch Friday is 6 p.m.