The No. 4 Florida Gators (36-12/18-6 SEC) avoided the sweep by No. 18 Arkansas Razorbacks (32-15/12-12 SEC) 5-3 Saturday night at Baum Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 9,852 in Fayatteville. As was the series opener, the game was televised by ESPNU.
RHP Karsten Whitson (6-0) got the nod to start for the Gators, but another righty Austin Maddox recorded the win. In the five and two-thirds innings he pitched, Whitson gave up three runs (earned) on six hits, had two wild pitches and struck out six. Maddox did not allow a hit, struck out and walked one in three and one-third innings. Arkansas used three pitchers in the contest, with RHP Nolan Sanburn collecting the loss in relief.
The game was scoreless heading into the second inning. With one out, Daniel Pigott (LF) had a basehit through the middle on a full count, and stole second with Austin Maddox (DH) at the plate. Maddox hit a fly ball single to center field, scoring Pigott and giving the Gators a 1-0 lead. Jeff Moyer (3b) hit the ball to short stop, but it was scored as catcher interference as the bat hit the glove of James McCann (C) before contact with the ball. With two down, Bryson Smith (CF) was walked to load the bases. Nolan Fontana (SS) reached on a fielder’s choice, that got Smith out at second to end the Gators’ half. Whitson set down all Razorback batters to end the inning.
The Gators were retired in order in the top of the third. With two out, Tim Carver (SS) singled up the middle, but was caught stealing with Bo Bigham (2b) at the plate for the third out.
In the top of the fourth, Maddox was hit by a pitch with one out, but was left on base after a fly out by Moyer and Vikash Ramjit (1b) popped out to Bigham in shallow center field. In the bottom of the inning, Bigham singled throught the left side, and was picked off attempting to advance to third base on a wild pitch. Colin Kuhn (CF) and Dominic Ficociello (1b) had back-to-back fly outs to center field to end the inning with Florida still leading 1-0.
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn opted to replace lefty starter Cade Lynch with RHP Nolan Sanburn to start the fifth. After Smith struck out looking, Fontana hit a homerun over the right field fence, his second on the year, to extend Florida’s lead to 2-0. Mike Zunino (C) was the second strikeout for Sanburn. Preston Tucker (RF) needed the trainer to come out after hitting a foul ball off his foot, but remained in the game and was issued a walk. Josh Adams (2b) had a basehit up the middle advancing Tucker to second, but both runner were left on base when Pigott struckout swinging. The Razorbacks were able to put a run on the board with a two-out solo homerun down the left field line by Matt Reynolds (3b). The homerun was the first given up this year by Whitson, who ended the inning by striking out Franco Broyles (DH).
With the 2-1 lead, the Gators were held scoreless in the top of the sixth. Carver hit a one-out single to third base, and advanced to second on a Bigham basehit through the left side, and both batters advanced on a wild pitch by Whitson. After Kuhn struckout, Ficociello doubled to left center, scoring Carver and Bigham and giving Arkansas the 3-2 lead. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan replaced Whitson with Maddox, who walked McCann, then forced Robinson to fly out to center field.
Fontana singled up the middle to lead off the seventh, followed by a basehit to right center field by Zunino, extending his hitting streak to 12 games. Tucker sent a chopper through the middle, scoring Fontana and advancing Zunino to second. Adams’ sacrifice bunt advanced both runners into scoring position. Pigott got his second hit of the contest on a double through the middle past a diving Carver and scoring both runners, to give the Gators back the lead at 5-3. With Maddox at the plate, Pigott got caught stealing third and did not agree with the call by third base umpire Steve Dew, but the replay clearly showed his left foot came off the ground during the slide and did not touch the base. Maddox got the third out when he popped out to second base. Arkansas led off their half with a line out to Fontana by Reynolds, however, struggles at third base in the series continued for the Gators when Moyer was charged a fielding error after he bobbled a hit by Broyles, landing him on base. Maddox set down the next two Razorback batter to close the inning.
The eighth and ninth innings would go scoreless for both teams, and the score would hold at 5-3, giving Florida their first victory of the series.
The Gators will host UNF on Wednesday at 7pm ET, before heading to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt a three game series from May 13-15.