Clayton Pisani left the batter’s box with a pumping fist that symbolized much more than the knockout punch the Gators had been waiting for in Saturday’s 6-1 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks at McKethan Stadium. Pisani’s towering eighth inning home run provided a measure of redemption for a so-so first half of the season and with Brandon McArthur out indefinitely with an injury, he might get plenty more opportunities to show what he’s capable of doing.
“It was pretty big,” Pisani said of his third home run of the seson. “More for the team than myself. It was good to get a few more runs and get the security of a five-run lead so one swing can’t tie the game.”
Pisani went 2-3 on Saturday, driving in two runs with his homer in the eighth that soared over the left field bleachers to cap a three-run inning that put the game on ice. Coach Kevin O’Sullivan felt a sense of immediate relief when the ball left Pisani’s bat.
“We haven’t hit a ball that hard in a while,” O’Sullivan said. “Hopefully that’s a good confidence boost for Clayton and it certainly is for our team. That homerun was kind of a big relief for everybody. I know it was for me.”
After struggling to score only one run in Friday night’s opening game of the three-game Southeastern Conference series with Arkansas, the Gators had an impromptu round of batting practice before leaving the stadium. O’Sullivan saw that as a young team working harder to atone for mistakes.
“It is a game of failure,” O’Sullivan said. “When things are going easy it’s good, but when things are going bad the only way to get out of it is to work harder.”
Patrick Keating (6-0) had another outstanding outing Saturday. He pitched innings, allowing five hits, while striking out five and giving up just one run, lowering his ERA to 2.45.
“We really needed this game today,” Keating said. “We had a tough loss last night. We needed to get this series 1-1 so we have a chance to win the series tomorrow. I’m feeling really comfortable with my mechanics and what I’m doing.”
Arkansas pushed across a first inning run but the Gators answered to tie the game at 1-1. With one out, Jon Townsend reached first when he was hit with a 3-2 pitch. Cole Figueroa followed with a walk and Josh Adams singled sharply between shortstop and third base to score Townsend from second.
The Gators struck again in the second inning, starting with a leadoff walk to Jonathan Pigott. Matt den Dekker failed to get a bunt down, but saved himself by singling into left field. Pisani followed with a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third. Buddy Munroe then hit a sacrifice fly into left-center field to score Pigott from third.
The Gators got the scoring started in the third inning with two outs. Adams hit a sure double down the third base line, but tripped while rounding first base and was forced to stay there. Dustin Bamberg picked him up by short hopping the center field fence for a double and driving in Adams for a 3-1 Florida lead.
With the win, the Gators improved to 24-11, 9-5 in the SEC. The Gators square off with Arkansas Sunday in game three. Florida will send freshman Tommy Toledo to the mound. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.