Florida falls into elimination game with 8-2 loss to Arkansas

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Florida's Jonah Girand is tagged out by Arkansas third baseman Casey Martin as he tries to slide into third base during the third inning of a Southeastern Conference tournament game Friday in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Special to Gatorsports.com

HOOVER, Ala. — There is something about Arkansas and Florida in the SEC baseball tournament.

Last year, the Razorbacks ousted the Gators, the regular-season champs, with a 16-0 win. On Friday, they sent the Gators, again the regular-season champs, into the loser’s bracket with an 8-2 win.

Top-seeded Florida (42-16) will play No. 8 seed LSU (35-24) later tonight (10 p.m., SEC Network) with the loser leaving town. The Gators knocked the Tigers into the loser’s bracket Wednesday with a 4-3 win. No. 4 seed Arkansas (39-17) advances to Saturday’s semifinal against the UF-LSU winner.

Friday’s game started at 11 a.m. ET because inclement weather and two earlier extra-inning games messed with Thursday’s schedule and would have forced a late-night start.

Arkansas pitcher Blaine Knight (10-0) won his second game of the season against the Gators, doing a better job than in the 6-3 win in March, when he gave up three runs on five hits in six innings. On Friday, he allowed just four hits and one run in six innings, walking three and striking out four on 99 pitches.

Barrett Loseke relieved Knight, and after a scoreless seventh, ran into trouble in the eighth by allowing a single to Deacon Liput and walking Nelson Maldonado.

Arkansas lefty closer Matt Cronin entered. He struck out India, walked Wil Dalton and gave up a sacrifice fly to Austin Langworthy to cut the Razorback lead to 4-2. But he struck out Brady Smith with runners on the corners. Cronin struck out the side in the ninth for his 11th save of the season.

Pinch-hitter Hunter Wilson settled the issue in the ninth with a grand slam home run (his first) off Andrew Baker, who had pitched two scoreless innings in relief of starter Jackson Kowar.

Arkansas, which lost the regular-season series 2-1 to UF in Gainesville, took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on Casey Martin’s two-run home run after a walk.

It became 4-0 Arkansas in the sixth on RBI singles from Dominic Fletcher and Jared Gates.

The Gators cut into the deficit on Jonathan India’s solo home run, his 17th, in the bottom of the sixth.

UF committed a couple of base-running blunders that cost them scoring opportunities. In the third, catcher Jonah Girand, making his first start, doubled and later was thrown out at third base when he tried advancing on a shallow flyout to center field.

Then in the following inning, India was thrown out at home trying to score on a grounder to the pitcher.

Kowar (9-4) went six innings, giving up four earned runs on seven hits, walked two and struck out seven on 100 pitches.

Note: UF freshman Shane Shifflett started at second base in place of Blake Reese, who committed two throwing errors Wednesday. Reese struck out pinch-hitting in the ninth. … With Auburn’s Edouard Julien and South Carolina’s LT Tolbert hitting grand slams on Wednesday, this marks the first time in SEC tournament history with three grand slams in the same year.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Sparky said to be optimistic. It is hard to when Sully rests one of your top pitchers and the top hitter is injured, the 2nd baseman can’t throw, baserunning blunders, hitters that won’t swing the bats, starting catcher today has 5 AB’s previously to today, relief pitchers who are wild and then groove one, and a coach who won’t bunt and allows hitters to hit into double plays. Oh, I forgot, a cleanup hitter, Dalton, who seems to have forgotten how to hit.
    It looks bad for tonight with a freshman pitching who has been known to give up the long ball. But, if somehow we win, no one but Dyson to take the hill tomorrow, and a win would likely mean one of the brothers from Ocala to start on Sunday and likely a loss.
    Baseball is a game of momentum and Sully has lost the mo both in pitching and hitting and fielding.

    • I hear ya. But you also have to keep things in perspective. Although you never like to lose, this tournament is really meaningless to the Gators at this point. They already won the regular season SEC title. They already locked up home field through the super regional if they make it that far. Hopefully Singer will be ready for the regional and super regional and they will get their bats going. I am really concerned about starter #3 and the bull pen though. If they make it to the CWS, Ameritrade stadium is a pitcher’s park and I am just not sure if we have a good enough bull pen this year to make it through. They really miss Faedo.

      • That’s correct. The goal, to play in Gainesville until Omaha, has already been achieved. The SEC tournament is meaningless for Florida. The caveat is that you don’t want to lose at the rate that Florida’s doing now. Baseball is well known to be a game of ups and downs and Florida has been very good all year until now. The good thing is that they know how to win, so I doubt they are having any self doubt. I think no one would not trade their players for Florida’s.

  2. This team has hit a funk! I was afraid it would eventually happen! The hits have stopped and so has their confidence. I am very concerned about getting out of the regional. We really don’t know how bad Singer’s injury is. Kowar seems to struggle early lately. Base running and fielding errors are more frequent as of late. We are the defending champs so let’s think that we will pull it together for NCAA’s.

  3. What happened to this team, that for most of the season was so promising, and I thought had a good chance to repeat as National Champions???? I doubt they even play in the Baseball world series. Wow – how proud they must be!!! What happened????

  4. Baseball is the hardest championship to win in NCAA competition, you gotta first get invited to a regional, then a super regional, then win an 8 team double elimination tournament, luck plays a huge role, my biggest frustration in baseball is when a batter takes and looks at a called strike three, if it was close enough to call, you should have swung, get the damn bat off your shoulder and swing at anything close with two strikes!!!