HOOVER, Ala. — On the third pitch of the game Eric Cole hit a hard chopper off of Brady Singer’s right throwing hand for a leadoff single. Seven pitches later Chad Spanberger launched a 2-2 fastball out of the Hoover Met and that was just the beginning of the worst loss the Gators (42-16) suffered all season. The Razorbacks (42-16) advanced to the SEC Tournament final with a 16-0 run rule win over Florida.
Singer walked the next batter after the home run and Kevin O’Sullivan went to the mound to check on his sophomore hurler.
“I asked him multiple times about (his hand),” O’Sullivan said of the mound meeting and then again in the dugout between the first and the second innings. “Obviously we aren’t going to take any chances if there was any issue. He assured me there was nothing wrong.”
Singer not sustaining an injury on the play would be the best thing that happened in the first inning, or the rest of the day.
Singer gave up a single to Dominic Fletcher and walked Carson Shaddy to load the bases. Jax Biggers plated two more with a single to extend the lead to 4-0 and Grant Koch’s sacrifice fly, the first out of the inning, gave Arkansas a 5-0 advantage. Singer got out of the inning with a double play but needed 39 pitches to do so.
Florida’s offense didn’t do Singer any favors. Razorback starter Kacey Murphy needed just 12 pitches to get through the bottom of the first, sending Singer back out to the mound.
The second proved just as turbulent as the first.
Jake Arledge singled through the left side and Cole launched a two-run home run down the right field line. Spanberger went back-to-back with his second home run in as many innings to extend the lead to 8-0. Kevin O’Sullivan had seen enough, getting Singer out of the game. It was the shortest start of Singer’s career. His ERA went from 2.67 to 4.06 after giving up seven hits and eight earned runs in just one inning.
“Credit Arkansas, they came out swinging the bats really well,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s the first time Brady’s been hit like that the whole year. Credit their hitters; they did a really nice job.”
Freshman Nate Brown took over for Singer and got out of the inning and pitched well. Brown got three outs and kept Arkansas off the board to get out of the second inning. Andrew Baker replaced Brown and worked an eventful shutout inning in the third but faltered in the fourth. Baker walked Luke Bonfield to start the inning and Dominic Fletcher launched the Razorback’s fourth home run of the game, the most Florida has given up in a single game this season.
Jonathan India broke up Murphy’s no-hitter with a two out double to left center in the third inning but the Gators couldn’t crack the puzzle that Arkansas’ mid week starter threw at them.
“He’s a good pitcher,” India said. “He uses both sides of the plate with his fastball and just dumped that curveball over for a strike. His stuff was working today and they got on us early, came out of the gates hot and that made it easier to pitch to us.”
The Gators used a total of seven pitchers but only Brown and freshman David Lee were able to keep Arkansas off the board. The Hogs added four runs in the fifth inning and a pair in the seventh inning to pull into a comfortable 16-0 lead. The SEC Tournament has a 10-run rule after seven innings, so when Florida went down in order in the bottom of the seventh the tournament rules, mercifully, ended the contest.
This is the first time the Gators have been on the losing side of a SEC Tournament run-rule since 2005 when they lost 14-1 to Ole Miss. After that loss the Gators swept the Gainesville Regional and swept Florida State in the Gainesville Super Regional on their way to play Texas in the College World Series Championship.
The Gators will assuredly be a National Seed when the field of 64 NCAA tournament teams is released on Monday afternoon.