Jonathan India during the Gators' game against the Florida State Seminoles on Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. / UAA Communications photo by Adler Garfield

Preview: No. 2 Florida Baseball Welcomes No. 4 Arkansas for SEC Showdown

The Florida Gators (19-4, 2-1) will host the Arkansas Razorbacks (16-5, 3-0) this weekend in an early-season SEC showdown. The series is the first top-five matchup to take place at McKethan Stadium since 2016. The Gators are 30-29 all-time against the Razorbacks.

Scouting the Razorbacks

Arkansas, the preseason SEC West favorite, has one of the greatest collections of offensive talent Florida will see all year. The Razorbacks have the eighth best team average in the country, hitting a collective .321. Eight of their nine players with 40+ at-bats are hitting over .300.

Senior outfielder Luke Bonfield has the best average among the regular starters at .377 and has an on-base percentage of .524. Arkansas’ preseason All-SEC team members have also gotten off to a hot start. First team catcher Grant Koch has four home runs and 14 RBI. Meanwhile, second team shortstop Jax Biggers is hitting .356 and has a team-high 18 walks.

The Razorbacks don’t just hit for average. They hit for power. Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn’s bunch is averaging 1.95 home runs per game. That’s good for second in the country.

Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said he thinks this weekend’s series will serve as a good challenge and will give the Gators a good barometer of where they’re at as a team.

Probable Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Brady Singer (5-0, 1.97 ERA) vs. RHP Blaine Knight (3-0, 1.30 ERA)

Saturday: RHP Jackson Kowar (3-1, 3.16 ERA) vs. RHP Isaiah Campbell (2-2, 1.73 ERA)

Sunday: RHP Tyler Dyson (4-1, 1.48 ERA) vs. TBA

Friday’s matchup between Singer, a preseason first team All-SEC selection, and Knight, a preseason second team All-SEC selection, headlines the weekend. Singer said Thursday that command will be key if he is to find success against the potent Razorbacks lineup.

Opposing batters are hitting .212 against Knight. He has 25 strikeouts and has walked just five hitters this season. Singer said pitching against Knight should be “a really good battle.”

The last time Florida faced Arkansas they were shutout 16-0 in the 2017 SEC tournament semifinal. Singer said the Gators, as a whole, are excited and had a good, focused week of practice leading into this year’s matchup.

Gators to Keep an Eye On

Jonathan India is riding a career-best eight-game hitting streak. Over his last 10 games, the junior is hitting .455 with four home runs and eight RBI. He said against a pitcher who throws as hard as Knight does it’s important he and his teammates don’t over-swing.

Nick Horvath has also found a groove at the plate. Over his last ten games, he’s hitting .351 with two home runs and six RBI. O’Sullivan said his contributions to the team, especially on defense, shouldn’t be overlooked.

Game Notes

You can listen to coverage of Friday’s game on 103.7 the Gator beginning at 6:25 p.m. Coverage of the rest of the series will begin at noon on Saturday and Sunday on ESPN 98.1 & 850 AM WRUF.

About Ryan McGinn

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