The Florida Gators (13-7, 2-1 SEC) fell to the Arkansas Razorbacks (9-7, 1-2 SEC) 9-3 on Sunday afternoon in an emotionally charged contest. While the Gators were not able to pull off the opening weekend sweep, they did come away with wins in two-of-three games to take the series from their first conference foe.
“We won the series; that’s the most important thing,” Kevin Sullivan said after the game. “I’m disappointed on how we played today, but it was kind of weird game. I was disappointed in the way we started on the mound.”
After playing 18-innings of either tied or one-run baseball and just 14 hours after the two teams traded heated words after Florida’s 1-0 Saturday night victory, emotions ran high on Sunday afternoon.
Arkansas opened the scoring in the first inning thanks to a miscue from freshman pitcher A.J. Puk. Puk got leadoff hitter Andrew Benintendi to roll over a ball to Pete Alonso at first base but was late covering the bag Alonso’s throw got past Puk and Benintendi reached second on the error. He was moved over to third by a fly-out from Tyler Spoon and crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly from Brian Anderson.
After the Gators went down in order in their half of the inning, Puk found more trouble, surrendering three more runs in the second.
“He struggled, yeah he struggled,” catcher Braden Mattson said after the game. “He wasn’t hitting spots, everything was up, he didn’t seem ready to play and sometimes that happens with young players.”
Puk lasted just two innings on the day giving up four runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
Despite the slow start, Florida didn’t fold. Justin Shafer’s sac fly in the bottom of the second narrowed the Razorback lead to three. Arkansas put up two more runs in the fourth inning but the Gators answered with two of their own to keep the lead to just three.
Florida only scored six runs on the weekend but the box score doesn’t show the improvement that the team has made at the plate. As a whole, Florida has been having better at bats and have been hitting the ball harder, even when the ball finds an opponent’s mitt.
“I felt good about our at-bats,” O’Sullivan said. “I thought we fought right there until the end. I did feel good about our approach and we were into it even when we fell behind.”
Karsten Whitson came into the game in the ninth inning and didn’t have good command. Whitson gave up two hits, two runs and walked a batter in his first appearance of the weekend.
- Buddy Reed collected a hit today for the third straight game. The three game hitting streak if the longest of the freshman outfielder’s career.
- Harrison Bader returned to the lineup and went 2-4 with two singles in his debut.
- Freshman RHP Dane Dunning went 4.1 innings in relief of Puk today giving up just one hit and two runs while striking out five.
- The loss snaps a season high seven game-winning streak.
- The homerun that A.J. Puk allowed in the second inning was the first that the Florida pitching staff had allowed since February 23 down in Coral Gables against Miami.
Seminoles on Deck
Florida will host Florida State Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium. It is the first of three contests the two schools will compete in.
“I’ve never played against them, obviously, so this will be fun for me,” Mattson said. “It’s a big game. Everyone is pretty excited for it.”