With his team trailing 5-0 Thursday afternoon in Arkansas Fall Baseball World Series, Arkansas corner infielder Kendall Diggs did what he has done all fall and barreled up the baseball.
Diggs’ third-inning homer cut his Cardinal team’s deficit to 5-3 and then he delivered a tie-breaking single in the fifth as his team downed the White 9-7 in five innings at Baum-Walker Stadium.
That rally gave the Cardinal a victory in the deciding game of the best two of three series to cap off the Razorbacks fall scrimmages.
“He’s going to be playing,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said of Diggs last week. “It is just a matter of if he is going to play third or first or DH.
“We tried him the outfield and it didn’t go great, honestly. But we have to get that bat in the line up.”
Diggs’ big moment last season was a walk-off, three-run homer April 30 at Baum-Walker that downed eventually national champion Ole Miss 6-3.
Diggs started 15 games while playing in 17 and hit .197 with 3 homers and 14 RBIs.
“Last year there were some nerves coming in, but it was also amazing and I will remember it the rest of my life,” Diggs said. “I was really excited to come back in here, have a year under may belt and kind of pave the way and lead by example.”
Diggs is one of the few veterans on a team that has 28 new players on the roster.
He was asked if he knew everyone’s names by now.
“I do actually,” Diggs said. “I am really enjoying that. It is really, really good team. We all love each other. It’s really cool. We actually came together and it hasn’t been too long, but we actually meshed together.”
The White squad, which had won 2-1 on Tuesday to force a third game, jumped out to 4-0 lead in the opening inning.
Jared Wegner’s RBI groundout plated Mason Neville, who had singled off Cardinal starting pitching Nick Griffin.
After Jayson Jones flied out, Jace Bohrofen reached on an error and he and Peyton Stovall came home on Reese Robninett’s homer that made it 4-0.
Wegner’s walk forced in a bases loaded run in the second to make it 5-0 before the Cardinal got its offense going.
Peyton Holt singled and Hudson Polk doubled before Tavian Josenberger drilled a three-run homer to cut the White’s lead to 5-3.
Diggs led off the fourth with his homer as the Cardinal added two in that inning and four more in the fifth.
He was playing first base on Thursday, but has no preference.
“Just wherever they need me,” Diggs said. “I have been working around all fall. I have played third, first, the outfield. I have told them multiple times it is wherever they need me, I am going to work my butt off to be able to play there.”
Diggs, who is from Olathe, Kan., played in the Appalachian Summer League.
“I was in Kingsport, Tennessee so it was like that Tri-Cities area,” Diggs said. “For me I think it was just good to go out there and get some consistent at bats day in and day out, just find a groove and see a lot more pitches and bring it to here. I have felt good this whole fall.”
He spent time at the corner infield spots. “Third and first, but primarily first because we had another third baseman and we really didn’t have a first baseman on that summer team.”
The game was called in the fifth.
Wegner was hit by a pitch and Jones singled before Reese Robinett, who had four RBIs, brought them both home to make it 9-7.
Parker Rowland fanned for the first out of the inning and then the game was called as the team was out of pitching.
“One hundred percent,” Bohrofen said of being miffed the game was called. “I thought we had them on the ropes with one out and runners at second and third. We were about to punch those two in and tie the game.
“But they said they were out of pitching and didn’t want to get anyone hurt. I understand the perspective, but for the competitive side, it sucks.”
Photo by John D. James