Florida dropped its’ first home series of the season losing a rubber match game to the Arkansas Razorbacks 10-4 on Sunday. Regrettably, the loss marked back-to-back series Southeastern Conference losses for the Gators who fell to 24-12, 9-6.
It was not a typical day at the ballpark for the Gators. And thankfully, so.
Six errors. Repeated missed opportunities. Somewhat emotionless. Scoring opportunities for a Razorbacks offense that put five leadoff runners on base in the first seven innings of the game.
“We just made six errors,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “You’re not going to win many games making six errors. We really could never gain momentum today. We pulled within one and made the base running mistake there at first base. We had first and third with one out. If we don’t make that mistake, we tie it up. You know it may be a different ballgame? But, we could just never get momentum. If we score two, the next thing that you know, we give up two. We score two more and then we run out there and hit the leadoff guy with the very first pitch. We could never just get anything going momentum wise.”
Throughout the 35 game season, we’ve been spoiled by the superb play of true freshmen Tommy Toledo and Josh Adams. Perhaps it was time that they had an outing where they played more like true freshmen. Toledo simply was not at his best. It’s hard to find fault with any player who goes two for four offensively, but Adams struggled defensively committing three errors. But, while the freshmen made their share of mistakes, this was an equally bad day for the entire team. A team that got off to a roaring 20-5 start, but has compiled a 4-7 record since starting off the LSU series with a 2-0 lead.
And the hits will continue. This is Murderer’s Row, where the Gators will face highly ranked opponents in 10 of their next 12 games. And oh, by the way, the fight for an Eastern Division title, seeding for the conference tournament, and a possible NCAA berth lie in the balance.
Make no mistake the effort was there today. Some of the guys sure looked tired though. Perhaps this is the point where they are looking for that second wind after playing eight games in ten days?
The game began with both teams scoreless through two innings of play. Toledo allowed two baserunners in the first and another in the second, but coupled with the Florida defense was able to work out of those two jams.
Things didn’t work out as well in the top of the third. With one out, right fielder Chase Leavitt turned an 0-2 count for a single to centerfield. Second baseman Ben Tschepikow followed by driving a 1-0 pitch to left field for a double. Third baseman Logan Forsythe singled, driving home Leavitt. He stole second, which didn’t amount to much as Toledo walked designated hitter Jeff Nutt on four pitches to load the bases. Center fielder Brett Eibner then ripped a two-run single to right scoring Forsythe and Tschepikow to give the Razorbacks the early 3-0 lead.
Center fielder Matt den Dekker led off the bottom of the fourth by taking Arkansas’ starter Justin Wells first offering up the middle for a single. Shortstop Cole Figueroa then poned a ball off the left field wall giving Florida runners in scoring position. Clean-up hitter Josh Adams filled the bill by launching a two-run single to right field. Third baseman Jon Townsend ripped a shot that looked as if it might gap on the left side, but Razorbacks’ third baseman Logan Forsythe had him played a step toward the hole, reached up and snagged the ball. Designated hitter Bryson Barber singled to center on the first pitch moving Adams to third. However, with only one out and first baseman Clayton Pisani at the plate, Barber got caught sneaking too far off the bag and catcher Ryan Cisterna threw down to Tim Smalling at first base. Smalling fired to second where Tschepikow applied the tag for the all important second out of the inning. Pisani followed by popping the ball just over the pitchers’ mound as Tschepikow hustled forward barely getting Pisani at first while Adams ran across home plate.
Tschepikow led off the Arkansas fifth with a ground rule double that bounced just to the right of the 365 mark in left center field. Two batters later, Jeff Nutt singled to right center. Center fielder Brett Eibner then laced a single to left center scoring Tschepikow. Left fielder Jacob House followed with a ground ball to first base, scoring Nutt giving the Razorbacks a 5-2 advantage.
Toledo (4-3) allowed 10 hits and five earned runs in five innings. He walked two and struck out two in the game.
“I thought that he looked really good in the pen,” O’Sullivan said of Toledo. “His stuff was online and he was on point. His change-up looked good. But, for whatever reason, when he got out there, he couldn’t throw his change-up for strikes and his location was off. I feel as though he’s getting the hang of things. He’s getting better, but sometimes he rushes a lot in the set position and tries to be too quick to the plate. His arm doesn’t get up and the ball goes up in the strike zone.”
With Toledo struggling, Florida head coach went to his bullpen for reliever Clint Franklin. However, the usually dependable Gators defense fell apart. Adams was charged with a fielding error on a ball hit by Cisterna to lead off the sixth. Lyons sacrificed him over with a bunt down the third base line. Leavitt then reached on a fielders’ choice to Figueroa, who gunned down Cisterna at the plate. Adams committed his second error of the frame when he failed to come up with Tschepikow’s ball at second. Forsythe walked on a full count. Nutt followed with a two-run single. However, Forsythe tried to reach home and was thrown out at the plate. The Razorbacks led 7-2.
In the bottom half of the sixth, Florida put together another one of their two out rallies. Adams doubled to center field. Townsend then singled deep to the hole on the left side. Barber singled home Adams and Pisani continued the hit parade with a hit left field, scoring Townsend. Pigott struck out looking to end the inning, but Florida had closed the gap 7-4.
The Razorbacks pieced together two more runs, both unearned in the seventh. Clint Franklin started the inning off on a sour note by plunking Eibner. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan went to the bullpen once more and brought in left hander Tony Davis to pitch to Sean Jones, who laid down a bunt moving Eibner over. O’Sullivan went back to the pen for Josh Edmondson, who walked Smalling on a inside pitch that almost hit him with a 3-2 count. Third baseman Jon Townsend missed a ground ball for the Gators fifth error of the game, which allowed Eibner to score. Lyons then sacrificed Smalling home for a 9-4 lead.
Florida will face arch-rival Florida State (31-3, 17-1) on Tuesday night in Tallahassee. It is the rubber match of this series with Florida handcuffing the ‘Noles in the first game 6-1 in Gainesville behind the strong pitching of Stephen Locke. The Seminoles rebounded by pounding Florida 10-2 at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The Gators will then travel to Kentucky (26-8, 6-8) for a three game series that begins on Friday. The Wildcats were swept by SEC leading Georgia this weekend in Athens.