Big inning sends Florida over Hogs
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The No. 4 University of Arkansas baseball team dropped an 8-2 decision to seventh-ranked Florida Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. The Gators scored six runs in their half of the sixth to take control of the game. Travis Sample and James McCann each posted two hits for Arkansas (33-7, 13-4 SEC). The loss snaps the Razorbacks’ 13-game winning streak.
"(Florida) got a couple of big hits and obviously, the three-run home run was a dagger," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "They got a couple more hits with two outs and kept building on that lead. We had our chances but couldn’t come up with the big hit and that’s a credit to their pitching."
The pitching controlled the first three innings of Saturday’s contest until Florida (27-11, 11-6 SEC) scored an unearned run in the bottom of the third. With two down, Nolan Fontana doubled to right field. Arkansas starter Brett Eibner looked to be out of the inning when Bryson Smith lifted a ball to right center but miscommunication between Collin Kuhn and Bo Bigham caused a drop and allowed Fontana to score to give the Gators the early 1-0 advantage.
Florida got things going again in the fourth with back-to-back hits by Austin Maddox and Brian Johnson to lead off the inning. After a single by Maddox, Johnson doubled to right center to give the home teams runners on second and third with no outs. Mike Zunino knocked in the two runs with a double to left. Josh Adams continued the inning with an RBI single that plated Zunino.
After consecutive hits by Adams and Fontana, Van Horn called on Geoffrey Davenport out of the bullpen. His first pitch of the game, however, was belted over the fence in left field by Smith for a three-run shot. The home run capped a six-run inning and gave Florida the 7-0 lead.
Eibner allowed six runs-five earned-on seven hits in 3.2 innings, his shortest outing during Southeastern Conference play. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out three Florida hitters. Each team left six runners on base.
The Razorbacks got on the scoreboard with two runs in the top of the sixth. Having moved into the designated hitter role, Eibner knocked in Bigham, Arkansas’ first run of the day, with a double to left field. After an infield hit by Monk Kreder, Travis Sample singled through the right side to score Eibner from third and trim the Hogs’ deficit to five, 7-2.
Florida tacked on the game’s finally tally in the bottom of the sixth. Adams led off the inning with a single and eventually came around to score on a double to center by Preston Tucker. Davenport gave up five hits and allowed two runs in 3.1 innings of work. He walked one and matched Eibner with three strikeouts. Christian Kowalchuk, making his second SEC appearance of the season, pitched the final inning of Saturday’s game.
"Tomorrow is a big game for both teams," Van Horn said. "Obviously, both teams want to win the series. If we can win this third game on the road, we can make a big statement."
With games one and two in the books, Arkansas and Florida will return to the field Sunday for the rubber game of their weekend series. First pitch of the contest is scheduled for noon (CT) at McKethan Stadium. The Hogs will start LHP Randall Fant (3-0, 2.62 ERA) in the finale and LHP Brian Johnson (3-2, 3.47 ERA) will get the nod for the Gators.