Florida Gators remain in SEC Baseball Tournament with 7-5 upset of No. 3 seed Arkansas

Graham Hall
Gator Sports

No. 7 seed Florida remained in the SEC Baseball Tournament with a 7-5 upset Friday of Arkansas (38-18) at Hoover Met Stadium, as UF relied on 10 hits to eliminate the third-seeded Razorbacks from the conference tournament.

With the victory, the Gators (37-21) will face the loser of the matchup between Alabama and Texas A&M in Saturday’s fourth round. Game time set for 10:30 a.m. 

"I thought we were much better today offensively than yesterday, obviously, but we got a lot of production from a lot of different guys in the lineup, which was good to see," UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said, "and tried to use the short game a little bit more today to kind of get a little bit more offense going."

Here are takeaways from the game. 

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Florida pitcher Nick Pogue (20) pitches against Arkansas in the SEC Tournament at the Hoover Met on Friday.

Home runs key for both teams

Following a scoreless first, Florida took a 2-0 lead in the second on freshman Jac Caglianone’s two-RBI single up the middle, which scored Jud Fabian and Ty Evans. Caglianone added to UF’s lead in the fifth inning with a solo homer to right-center field.

Two outs later, Colby Halter hit a home run to right for UF’s third run of the game. The Razorbacks then walked Wyatt Langford, bringing Sterlin Thompson to the plate and ending Connor Noland’s afternoon on the mound for Arkansas. Thompson hit a single to right center off of Evan Taylor, and BT Riopelle hit a double to score Langford, giving the Gators a 5-0 lead through five innings of action. 

The Razorbacks got on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth inning with consecutive solo home runs, cutting Florida’s advantage to 5-2. But UF answered right back in the bottom of the frame with a solo home run by Jud Fabian and an RBI single from Halter, and like that the five-run lead had been reinstated. 

Facing elimination from the SEC Tournament, the Razorbacks managed to hit their third home run of the contest in the ninth inning after scoring on a passed ball, but Cayden Wallace grounded out to send Florida through to Saturday.

Jud Fabian capitalizes on shuffle in order

Jud Fabian hadn’t recorded a hit in his previous nine at-bats, but he bounced back in a monumental way Friday. Fabian snapped his hitless streak with a double in the second inning, which subsequently sent freshman Ty Evans to third base.

Evans and Fabian would score UF’s first two runs of the day on the very next at-bat. Fabian struck out in the fourth, but he managed to respond once again in his next appearance at the plate. Fabian opened the bottom of the sixth inning with his 21st home run of the season.

Fabian’s performance may have been a credit to a pre-game lineup change as O’Sullivan moved Fabian from the three-hole spot to batting fifth in the order. Riopelle hit third, with Evans hitting in the clean-up spot.

"I think maybe just take a little pressure off and maybe moving somebody down just a couple spots, moving somebody up a couple spots may make a difference, but sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't," O'Sullivan said of the change in the order. "But today maybe (it) took a little pressure off some of the hitters, and obviously our approach was better today than it was yesterday."

Jac Caglianone puts UF up early

Freshman Jac Caglianone wasn’t initially expected to contribute for the Gators this season, but his availability at the plate continues to pay dividends for Florida. 

Caglianone put UF up 2-0 with a first-pitch single in the second inning, and his home run in the fifth inning extended UF’s lead to 3-0. It marked Caglianone’s fifth home run of the season. In the sixth inning, Caglianone was hit by a pitch before he could extend his streak at the plate. 

Nick Pogue leaves little time for Arkansas to adjust

From the opening frame, Nick Pogue kept the Razorbacks consistently guessing by maintaining a swift pace. Pogue struck out eight batters and allowed just four hits across 5.0 innings of action, giving the Melbourne native his fourth win of the season. Pogue's eight strikeouts tied his career-high. 

Pogue made way for Blake Purnell in the sixth inning after allowing consecutive home runs, the only runs he would allow on the afternoon.

"Obviously, they ran his pitch count up a little bit. I think he got to about 80 pitches through five," O'Sullivan said of Pogue. "But he really pitched to both sides of the plate with his fastball today.

Meanwhile, the Gators were able to build a five-run advantage over the Razorbacks during Pogue’s stay on the mound. Ryan Slater, who came on in the seventh, got the save for the Gators. 

"Nick Pogue was really good, gave us another quality start. Blake came in for an inning and then obviously we stretched out Ryan there at the end and did a real nice job," O'Sullivan said. "Credit Arkansas, they battled right there until the end and were one hit away from getting the tying run to the plate. Looking forward to playing tomorrow and hopefully playing a little bit better."