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Friday May 6, 2011No. 18 Arkansas Edges No. 4 Florida, 4-3

Fayetteville, Ark.

Junior Jarrod McKinney snapped a 3-3 tie with a solo homer starting the bottom of the eighth to lift No. 18 Arkansas (31-14/11-11 SEC) past No. 4 Florida (35-11/17-5 SEC), 4-3, in the Thursday Night SEC Baseball Game of the Week that was carried on ESPNU.


McKinney sent a 2-1 pitch from sophomore Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (8-2) into the left-field bullpen to make a winner out of sophomore DJ Baxendale (7-1), who tossed a complete game. The righty scattered seven hits, totaled seven strikeouts and allowed a pair of earned runs to pick up the victory. The Hogs overcame deficits of 1-0 and 3-1 to notch their seventh-consecutive triumph over the Gators at Baum Stadium and also ended UF’s seven-game winning streak.


Helped by an Arkansas error, the Gators grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) was hit by a pitch from Baxendale with one down and junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-4) smoked a single past redshirt junior shortstop Tim Carver to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. Smith was able to come across on the play when senior left fielder Kyle Robinson mishandled the wet ball on the outfield grass. Baxendale stranded Tucker on second base with consecutive strikeouts of sophomores Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) and Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.).


The Hogs answered in the bottom of the frame on an RBI single up the middle by freshman Dominic Ficociello to even the game. Redshirt junior Collin Kuhn (2-for-4, two RBI, two runs) had a one-out triple to straightaway center field and Ficociello stroked the next pitch into center field to even the contest.


Junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-2) opened the third with a single through the left side and moved into scoring position on a two-out grounder by Smith. Baxendale had Tucker fly out into center to end the frame.


The Gators used an RBI single by Pigott to seize a 2-1 advantage in the fifth. Senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-3) led off with a single into right field and was sacrificed over on a bunt by junior Jeff Moyer (Winter Springs, Fla.). Pigott drove in Adams with a base-knock into center field and advanced to second on the relay throw to the plate. Baxendale prevented further trouble by having sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) fly out into left center and striking out Smith.


Tucker began the sixth with his 10th homer, matching Zunino for the team lead, to put Florida up 3-1. Tucker fouled off four-straight pitches from Baxendale before depositing a solo shot over the right-field fence. Zunino increased his hitting streak to 10 games with a double down the left-field line and Johnson advanced his teammate to third with a sacrifice bunt. Sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) drew a walk for runners on the corners and Adams laid down a bunt that pushed Maddox to second as Zunino remained on third. McKinney robbed Moyer of a potential two-run single with a sprawling catch in right field to complete the stanza.


Arkansas knotted the game at 3-3 in the home part of the sixth on a two-run homer to left field by Kuhn. Randall had retired 15-consecutive hitters before surrendering a two-out triple to junior Bo Bigham. Kuhn then tied the game with a two-run blast, his fourth big fly of the campaign.


Pigott was plunked to start the seventh but Baxendale had Fontana hit into a 6-4-3 double play and Smith ground out to keep the contest tied. In the bottom of the inning, UA senior Kyle Robinson had a one-out single to left field and went to second on a grounder by sophomore Matt Reynolds. Randall set down junior pinch hitter Sam Bates on a grounder to preserve the 3-3 stalemate.


McKinney gave the hosts their first lead of the night with his second round-tripper of the season to lead off the Hogs’ eighth at bat. Junior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) took over for Randall (7.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 5 K) and retired the next three hitters. Baxendale set down the Gators in order in the ninth to finish the contest..


 In a matchup of left-handers tomorrow night at 7:35 p.m. ET, Johnson (7-1, 2.26) will face sophomore Randall Fant (1-3, 2.92).


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Game Notes

·         The start of the game was delayed for 21 minutes due to rain, marking the first time in 46 games this year that the Gators had been affected by weather.

·         Preston Tucker and Mike Zunino each raised his hitting streak to 10 games.

·         UF held a 7-6 advantage in hits and did not commit any errors.

·         Florida’s seven-game SEC winning streak was snapped.


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