The Army Black Knights baseball season came to a close earlier this month, as they lost to national power UCLA, 13-6. They were the only Service Academy to make the NCAA Baseball Tournament, turning some heads while doing so.
Army would open up the tournament with a nationally televised game against the No. 8 overall seed, Texas Tech. Kevin Debrule would get the Black Knights started right away, hitting a double and scoring on a Tim Simoes bunt single in the top of the first.
In the second inning, Texas Tech would tie the game with a Parker Kelly RBI ground-rule double. The batters behind him stranded two men in scoring position though, leaving a window open for Army. The Black Knights would tally another in the top of the 3rd, but a Cal Conley two-run home run to right field would give the Red Raiders the lead for the remainder of the game.
Army had a chance to cut the lead back down to two in the 5th, but Hunter Meade was thrown out on a wacky play at home. Jeremiah Adams would tally another run in the 7th, hitting the lone home run for the Black Knights on Friday.
“It was a fastball right over the heart of the plate,” stated Adams postgame, “So I went up thinking that if I got a fastball over the middle I was going to try to do some damage with it and I am blessed to be in this situation and make some damage on that pitch.”
The Army bullpen would pitch two innings of one-hit ball, but the Black Knights fell on the afternoon by a score of 6-3.
Army then faced UCLA, opening up day two of the Lubbock Regional with a nationally televised game on ESPN2. UCLA got to work against the hero of the Patriot League Tournament Ray Bartoli early with a three-spot in the first inning. Sam Ruta would hit a two-run bomb in the 2nd, highlighting his 3-3 day, and cutting the Bruins lead to one.
Army scores 3 in 5th, trails UCLA 9-6 starting 6th in @NCAAMBaseball Regional game.@ArmyWP_Baseball hits by Kevin Dubrule, Anthony Giachin, walk by Ross Fredrick to load bases, 2 RBI single by Tim Simoes, RBI single by Sam Ruta@legionbaseball #collegebaseball#AmericanLegion pic.twitter.com/zA084CxVGk— Ken Kraetzer (@SonsLegionRadio) June 5, 2021
UCLA would run up the score over the next three innings, stretching their lead out to 9-3 heading into the 6th. They would win the game by a score of 13-6, making the Black Knights the first team eliminated from their regional.
For the third consecutive full season, Army won not only the Patriot League Tournament title but finished over .500. They are 0-6 in their last six NCAA Tournament matchups.
The Black Knights are expected to have another competitive team next season, as they return the 2021 Patriot League Rookie of the Year, Sam Ruta. He finished the season leading the league in RBI, and hit a very impressive .337 in Patriot League play.
Along with him, Army expects to return five members of the All-Patriot League second team. Anthony LoRicco had a solid junior season on the mound, pitching to a 4.68 ERA. Connelly Early had a dominant freshman season out of the bullpen, pitching to a 2.23 ERA. Kevin Dubrule hit in 32 runs with an impressive .291 batting average. Nick Manesis hit .285 in his junior season, as he struggled to hit over .100 in the two before. Lastly, Ross Friedrick hit .330 in his first full year of action, along with a perfect fielding percentage.
Army will lose All-Patriot League first-team member Anthony Giachin, and Defensive Player of the Year Tim Simoes to graduation.
On the Hudson, head coach Jim Foster has a bright future. He has only missed one NCAA tournament, making the Patriot League Tournament in all four full seasons.
Army should be in the hunt for another bid to the NCAA tournament next spring.