GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In what is essentially the spotlight showdown in college baseball this weekend, No. 4 Arkansas struck first against No. 2 Florida.
The Razorbacks scored the first 5 runs against Gators ace Brady Singer and held off a late charge from the hosts to close out a 6-3 win Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at McKethan Stadium.
Florida (19-5, 2-2 SEC) got home runs from Deacon Liput and Wil Dalton, but the Gators never found enough offensive momentum to close the gap against Arkansas (17-5, 4-0).
“We got beat by a really good pitcher tonight. It’s just part of it, it happens and we’ve been in this situation before where we’ve lost the first one and then come back and won the next two,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “But we’ve certainly got to play a little bit better tomorrow, but our bullpen should be rested for the most part. … So we’re still in good shape. There’s no reason to take anything that happened tonight into tomorrow.”
Arkansas ace Blaine Knight racked up 10 strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings, giving up 3 run on 5 hits and 4 walks.
He wasn’t perfect, but it was more than enough after being staked to a 5-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning.
Arkansas’ Heston Kjerstad doubled on a 1-2 pitch in the top of the second to plate the first run, and Carson Shaddy hit a comebacker off Singer’s leg to plate two more runs in the inning.
Dominic Fletcher then homered in the fourth and Shaddy made it 5-0 on a sacrifice fly.
Liput’s first homer of the season, a 2-run shot, followed in the bottom of the inning to make it 5-2, and Dalton crushed his team-leading 10th homer into the night and out of the ballpark to left in the seventh to make it 6-3.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a longer home run in general than Wil’s. I mean, that thing was still going at the top of the trees. Yeah, he’s got a lot of power,” Liput said.
But in general, the Gators didn’t have enough offensive firepower in this one.
Liput finished 2-for-4 and at one point had hits in 6 straight at-bats dating back to last game. India was 2 for 3 with a run.
Singer (5-1) gave up 6 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks with 7 strikeouts in 7 innings for his first loss of the season.
He was asked about the challenge of facing an Arkansas lineup in which the 6-9 hitters all hit .317 or better (especially on a night when they combined for 6 hits and 5 RBIs.
“Yeah, it’s a tough, but it’s the SEC. It’s what we signed up for. You know, it’s one of those nights,” Singer said.
The teams will reconvene at noon Saturday for the second game of the series.
“You just take things one game at a time. We knew coming into this we were facing a really good ball club with really good pitching and some good hitting, so we lost the first one, but we’ll bounce back tomorrow and we’ll get right after it,” Liput said.
NOTES: O’Sullivan said he may consider moving Dalton out of the leadoff spot as he continues to blister the baseball. Liput, who hit fifth Friday, could be a candidate to move to the top of the order.
“We’re going to talk to the staff, maybe we’ll look at the lineup a little bit and there’s really only one change to make,” O’Sullivan said. “Wil’s obviously got 10 home runs, and we’ve been thinking about it and thinking about it, he’s swinging the bat so well, but it’s almost as if we’re wasting some RBI opportunities with him driving the ball as much he is. So we’ll talk as a staff and maybe shuffle things a little bit — not a whole lot.”
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