The No. 18 Arkansas Razorbacks (32-14/12-11 SEC) defeated the No. 4 Florida Gators (35-12/17-6 SEC) 5-3 in game two, to win the three-game series Friday night in front of 9,032 at Baum Stadium in Fayatteville. Arkansas had beaten Florida Thursday 4-3.
Friday’s game started with a matchup of southpaws with Brian Johnson (7-2) recording the loss for the Gators and Randall Fant (2-3) earning the win for the Razorbacks. Arkansas righty Barrett Astin got the save, retiring all nine Gator batters he faced. Johnson allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits, striking out and walking two in four innings. Fant gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits, with three strikeouts and two walks in the six innings he pitched.
Aside from Mike Zunino’s double down the left field line to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, the Gators went quietly in the first inning. The Razorbacks, however, got their first run of the contest. With one out, Colin Kuhn (CF) reached on a throwing error by Austin Maddox, who was moved from his first base post to play at third in the contest. James McCann (C) had a basehit to left field, advancing Kuhn to third who would score on a sacrifice fly to deep center field by Dominic Ficociello (1b). Kyle Robinson (LF) ended the inning with a fly out to center field.
Daniel Pigott (LF) bunted safely between the mound and first base, and reached second on a throwing error by Ficociello with one out in the top of the second inning. After Brian Johnson struckout swinging, Maddox doubled off the center field wall to score Pigott. Vikash Ramjit (1b) also reached first on a throwing error, this time charged to Matt Reynolds (3b). The visitor’s half ended when Bryson Smith (CF) struck out looking. Johnson retired the home team in order, keeping the score at one run-a-piece.
In the top of the third with one out, Zunino had his second consecutive at-bat double down the left field line. But controversy ensued in the next at-bat when Preston Tucker (RF) singled to second and beat the throw to first. Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn argued with first base umpire Stephen Hagan that Tucker was out, but the call stood. Josh Adams (2b) reached on a fielder’s choice after Tucker was out at second, but Adams hustled to the bag, avoiding the double play, and scoring Zunino for a 2-1 Florida lead. Pigott popped out to third for the third Gator out. Tim Carver (SS) recorded a double after the ball hit off of Maddox’s glove and continued down the left field line. The next batter, Bo Bigham (2b), popped up to shallow center field; the ball was caught by Tucker, but he dropped the ball on the transfer as he attempted to throw Carver out at third. Van Horn was back out to argue Tucker never had control of the ball in his glove, and for the second time in the inning, the umpires sided with the Gators, and Bigham was the first out for the Razorbacks. Johnson struck Kuhn out looking, and issued McCann a walk. With two outs and two men on, Ficociello singled into right field scoring Carver and advancing McCann. Robinson hit a scorcher down the left field line, scoring McCann and Ficociello for the 4-2 Arkansas lead. Reynolds flied out to center field to end the third inning.
Fant retired the Gators in order in the top of the fourth. In the bottom of the inning, Johnson only faced three batters as McKinney was walked with one out, then picked off on his lead at first.
Smith opened the fifth with a lead off walk, and advanced to second after Nolan Fontana (SS) had a basehit off a flattened curveball into right field. Zunino hit into a 6-4-3 double play, and Tucker was the third out with a groundout to short stop. After a Bigham line drive basehit into center field, Johnson was taken off the mound in favor of RHP Tommy Toledo. With the exception of a McCann single into left field, Toledo struckout three batters looking to end the stanza.
In the visitor’s half of the sixth, Fant set down all three Gator batters with groundouts. Reynolds opened the hometeam’s half with a fly out to center field, followed by back-to-back singles by Broyles and McKinney. Toledo pitched himself out of the inning forcing Carver to pop out to second base, and Bigham to groundout to short stop.
Barrett Astin replaced Fant and retired the Florida hitters in order in the top of the seventh. Toledo hit lead off batter Kuhn, who advanced on a McCann sac bunt. Toledo was replaced by LHP Nick Maronde, who faced one batter, Ficociello, and walked him. RHP Greg Larson was the next Gator pitcher, and forced Robinson to hit into a groundout, but advanced the baserunner into scoring position. Reynold was intentionally walked to load the bases, in hopes of getting the better of Broyles. Instead, Broyles hit a line drive over the head of Maddox, scoring Kuhn to bring the Arkansas lead to 5-3. The inning ended on a McKinney groundout to third base.
The eighth inning found both teams hitless and scoreless as both sides went three up-three down.
The Gators were down to their last three outs, and as he did in the prior two innings he pitched, Astin retired the side in order.
”We fell behind early, but I was pleased with how we bounced back during the third,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. ”I thought we got some momentum. and then we turned back around gave up three runs with two outs. That’s kind took the momentum away.”
Florida will try to avoid the sweep and collect their first win in Fayetteville since 2005 Saturday at 8:00 ET. The game will be televised on ESPNU for the second time in this series. RHP Karsten Whitson (6-0, 2.02 ERA) will take the mound for the Gators, while LHP Cade Lynch (4-2, 2.65 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Razorbacks.