Gators fall to Hogs in SEC home opener

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Arkansas' Dominic Fletcher (24) celebrates with teammates Jordan McFarland (13) after Fletcher's home run during the first game of the weekend series against Florida at McKethan Stadium on Friday. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Florida ace righty Brady Singer was unable to solve the bottom of the Arkansas lineup Friday night.

As a result, the No. 2 Gators fell behind early and were unable to recover in a 6-3 loss to No. 4 Arkansas in their SEC home opener.

A crowd of 5,025 at McKethan Stadium watched Florida (19-5, 2-2 SEC) fall behind 5-0 before the end of the fourth inning, as Arkansas’ five through nine hitters went a combined 9 for 17 with two home runs and six RBIs.

“They’ve got a deep lineup,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “They can swing the bats really well. If we can execute on the mound and make quality pitches in key situations, we can be successful.”

Singer (5-1) took his first loss of the season. The junior from Eustis allowed six earned runs over seven innings, walking two and striking out seven.

“With two strikes, I couldn’t put them away every time,” Singer said.

Junior righty Blaine Knight (4-0) allowed three runs in 6.2 innings and struck out 10 to earn the win for the Razorbacks. Sophomore lefty Matt Cronin finished off the game with two scoreless innings for his fourth save of the season.

“The bottom line is we’ve got to be a little bit better offensively,” O’Sullivan said. “But we got beat by a really good pitcher tonight, it’s part of it. It happens.”

Arkansas (17-5, 4-0 SEC) jumped on Singer for three runs in the second inning, going ahead 1-0 on an RBI double by Heston Kjerstad and 3-0 on a two-out, two-RBI single by nine-hole hitter Carson Shaddy that lined off Singer’s leg into right field.

Arkansas center fielder Dominic Fletcher put the Razorbacks up 4-0 in the fourth inning with a solo home run off the right field scoreboard. Shaddy added a sacrifice fly later in the inning to put Arkansas up 5-0.

Florida cut the deficit to 5-2 in the bottom of the fourth on shortstop Deacon Liput’s first home run of the season, a two-run shot over the right field wall. But the Razorbacks went back up 6-2 in the sixth inning on a solo home run by Kjerstad.

Sophomore right fielder Wil Dalton cut the Arkansas lead to 6-3 in the seventh inning with his 10th home run of the season, a moon shot that sailed over the left field bleachers.

The Gators  will resume their series with the Hogs on Saturday at noon at McKethan Stadium (ESPN2), with junior righty Jackson Kowar (3-1, 3.16 ERA) starting against Arkansas sophomore righty Isaiah Campbell (2-2, 1.73 ERA). O’Sullivan said the Gators may contemplate some lineup changes Saturday, including moving Dalton from the leadoff spot to down in the order while moving Liput up to the leadoff spot.

“Wil has got 10 home runs, he’s been swinging the bat so well, but it’s almost as if we’re wasting some RBI opportunities with him driving the ball as well as he is,” O’Sullivan said.