The first go-around of the lineups was even. Florida star pitcher Hunter Barco allowed no base runners through the first three innings.
The second (and third, fourth and fifth) time around, Arkansas (23-5, 8-2 Southeastern Conference) showed why it is the number two team in the country and why the Gators (19-11, 3-7 SEC) are no longer ranked.
The Razorbacks piled on runs while the Gators posted only three hits. Florida lost 8-1 and moved to the bottom of the SEC East standings in a series opener loss at home Thursday night.
Initially, the Gators were in good shape with 6-foot-4 sophomore Barco.
Of the three conference games Florida has won, two of them were with Barco starting. Before Thursday, he was 5-2, while the rest of the team was 14-8.
But, his no-base-runner streak in this game ended when he hit Arkansas leadoff hitter Cayden Wallace with a pitch. Two batters later, Barco walked another batter. The Razorbacks duo stole second and third– a play that soon helped Wallace run home on a controversial hit by Michael Turner that fell to the grass in the infield. Gator third baseman Deric Fabian collided with an Arkansas runner while attempting to make a play on the infield blooper.
It's a line drive in the scorebook pic.twitter.com/emaEK1C7ww
— Arkansas Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) April 7, 2022
Gator coach Kevin O’Sullivan attempted to persuade the umpires that interference should have been called but it was to no avail. End of 4th Inning, Arkansas 1, Florida 0.
After the game, O’Sullivan said allowing the leadoff hitter to get on base in innings four through six is an issue for Barco.
O’Sullivan also suggested having to throw so many pitches in inning four may have gotten to Barco. He mentioned Barco having strep last week as a factor that could have affected his performance.
Halfway through the game, the Razorbacks added on to the scoreboard. Wallace hit a single out to right field to bring home a run to make it 2-0 Razorbacks.
Things didn’t get better to start the sixth inning; Chris Lanzilli hit a home run. Barco proceeded to allow a single and a walk. O’Sullivan subbed in righty Tyler Nesbitt.
Nesbitt came into the game with something to prove; he gave up six earned runs in one inning against Georgia on Saturday. Facing bases loaded with one out, he struck out a hitter and produced a Wallace groundout. He pumped his fists as he walked off the field. End of 6th Inning: Arkansas 3, Florida 0.
Gator Offensive Woes
Colby Halter started the Gator offense with a right field single to lead off the game, but got caught stealing second. That would be the most production from the Florida offense for a while.
Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan credited Arkansas starting pitcher Christopher Noland for tough pitching.
In the bottom of the fourth, Noland hit Fabian with a pitch, giving the core of the Florida lineup a chance to make something happen. Sterlin Thompson hit a hard ball that looked like it would advance Fabian, but Arkansas made a better, darting catch.
Wyatt Langford’s strikeout ended the inning.
Florida converted a double play to terminate the top of the seventh inning, with Calilao making the pivoting tag at first base. But the Gator’s second to fourth hitters failed to get anything going. Fabian grounded out and eventually went 0-3 on the night, while Thompson and Langford struck out.
Down by three runs in the bottom of the eighth, the Gators had their chances to score. Calilao got the Gators’ first hit since Halter’s first-inning leadoff single with a single to left field. Zebulon Vermillion, the second Arkansas pitcher of the game, walked Josh Rivera.
Florida could tie up the game.
Instead, Kris Armstrong and Deric Fabian failed to produce.
Ficarrotta Falters Fast
Listen to this stat; three pitches, two homers.
That’s how quickly things went south for redshirt freshman Nick Ficarrotta.
Can anything stop the big pig invasion pic.twitter.com/ZDQppSgK6r
— Arkansas Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) April 8, 2022
He failed to collect a single out, and 11 pitches later, he gave up another run via a Turner double. The score: 6-0. The Gators’ hopes– dissipated.
Arkansas once again proved its dominance, almost punishing Florida for trying to come back.
Righty Anthony Ursitti entered and allowed the remaining base runners to run home via a sac fly and a single. Top of 9th Inning: Arkansas 8, Florida 0.
Halter began the bottom of the ninth with a double to center field, a hit that would have been much more momentous had Florida not given up five runs in the top of the inning and were only down three.
The reliable Jud Fabian struck out. Thompson hit a ground ball that scored Halter who went to third on a wild pitch, to avoid the shutout. The game ended when Langford struck out.
The Gators look to bounce back as they host the Razorbacks on Friday at 6:30 p.m. for the second game of the three-game series.
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