Bukvich Shuts Down Hogs' Offense

OXFORD, Miss. -- On the first pitch of Saturday's game, it looked like Arkansas center fielder Craig Gentry might've taken out Ole Miss starter Brett Bukvich.

Gentry lined Bukvich's first pitch up the middle, catching Bukvich on his left wrist.

It turned out that was the closest the Razorbacks would come to delivering a knockout punch to the freshman, as Bukvich bounced back to shut down Arkansas and help the Rebels even the series with a 7-3 win at Swayze Field.

After Bukvich recovered to throw out Gentry, Ole Miss coaches and training staff came out to check on the wrist. It didn't take long for them to be satisfied that Bukvich was fine. He then went about proving it, keeping the Razorbacks off-balance with a changeup and a newly found slider.

"He kept us off-balance, he hit a lot of spots, he had us out on our front foot," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "We knew what was coming, we just didn't hit it."

With Alabama beating Florida 7-2, the Razorbacks (35-16, 15-11 SEC) fell a game back in the SEC West, while Ole Miss (32-19, 14-12) pulled to within a game of Arkansas.

Bukvich said his fastball wasn't as sharp as he would've liked.

"I didn't really have a whole lot of command with my fastball," he said. "My off-speed kept me in it. I was able to get ahead of a lot of hitters with my off-speed pitches, which kept them off-balance because they didn't know what was coming.

"I just got ahead of a lot of hitters and limited their quality swings, which was big."

Bukvich (5-4) lasted into the eighth inning, when he gave way to reliever Will Kline. Bukvich left to a standing ovation from the Ole Miss fans. In seven-plus innings, Bukvich gave up just three hits and walked two. He struck out three, including striking out the side in the seventh.

"The big thing he did that we didn't do yesterday was he attacked the strike zone, much like (Nick) Schmidt did (Friday) for Arkansas," said Ole Miss catcher Justin Brashear. "He's been the most consistent guy we've had going for awhile."

After pounding out 17 hits in Friday's 12-3 win, the Razorbacks offense was silent for much of the afternoon.

The Razorbacks didn't get a runner past first base until Clint Arnold's sixth-inning, two-run home run.

"A lot of times you see that happen," Van Horn said. "You get a big night, you score a lot of runs, everything goes your way and then, bingo, you can't get the big hit, you're out front popping up.

"It's disappointing but give them credit, give the pitcher credit. They did a great job."

It didn't take long for Arkansas' offensive frustration to boil over.

Catcher Brian Walker, who has been the Razorbacks' hottest hitter for much of the last two weeks, was ejected in the third after striking out.

"Hopefully he'll bounce back (today)," Van Horn said. "(Blake) Parker got a few at-bats and maybe he'll be in the lineup (today). If we weren't going to win, it might've been a blessing in disguise. We'll see."

Walker had argued he was hit on the previous pitch, appearing to grimace in pain while clutching his elbow. He put up a brief argument before digging back in against Bukvich. But after he struck out swinging, Walker said something to home plate umpire Nelson Graham and was quickly ejected.

Walker then continued to argue with Graham before Van Horn came down from third base to pick up the argument.

"The ball hit me and he said it didn't and what he says goes and that's just the way it is," Walker said. "I didn't agree with it, simple as that and I guess he didn't want to hear it.

"I didn't say anything. All I said was that I didn't agree with the call. I didn't use any words that I wouldn't use around little kids. From then on, it changed the game."

Van Horn also said he didn't think Walker did enough to warrant an ejection.

While Bukvich was doing his job of shutting down Arkansas, the Rebels' offense delivered with timely hits that had been missing during their four-game losing skid.

After Arnold homered off Bukvich to put the Razorbacks up 2-1, Ole Miss immediately answered.

Alex Presley made Razorbacks starter Daryl Maday (1-1) pay for a leadoff walk in the bottom half, taking Maday's first pitch out to right center to put the Rebels back on top.

The Rebels then continued in the next inning off reliever Brian McLelland. McLelland, who had been the Razorbacks most consistent reliever of late, was touched for three runs in just two-thirds of an inning.

Presley and Logan Power were each 3 for 4. Presley, a junior, drove in four runs.

In the seventh, Ole Miss pounded McLelland with four singles spaced around a sacrifice bunt and a walk to extend the lead to 6-2.

"A good day all around," Bianco said. "The last four games or so in conference they haven't been good days.

"We didn't get a ton of hits, 12, but some big hits, some timely hits."

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