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Friday May 6, 2011No. 18 Arkansas Downs No. 4 Florida, 5-3, To Take Series

Fayetteville, Ark.

No. 18 Arkansas (32-14/12-11 SEC) clinched its weekend series with a 5-3 victory over No. 4 Florida (35-12/17-6 SEC) on Friday night in front of 9,286 fans at Baum Stadium. The Hogs overcame a 2-1 deficit with three runs in the third and tacked on an insurance run in the seventh to end the Gators’ SEC series winning streak at five and claim their eighth-straight victory over UF on their own turf dating back to 2005. It was the first time this season that Florida has dropped back-to-back league games.

 

Sophomore southpaw Randall Fant (2-3) yielded six hits and three runs over six innings, with three strikeouts and two walks, before freshman Barrett Astin set down all nine Gators he faced over the final three frames and totaled four strikeouts to collect his first save.

 

Arkansas took advantage of a Gator error and used a sacrifice fly by freshman Dominic Ficociello (1-for-2, two RBI) to break the ice against sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (7-2) in the first inning. Redshirt junior Collin Kuhn (0-for-4, two runs) reached on a one-out throwing error by sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) and junior James McCann (2-for-2) moved his teammate to third with a single into left field. Ficociello lofted a sac fly into right field to bring across Kuhn.

 

Maddox tied the score in the second with a two-out double to straightaway center field off Fant. Junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) reached on a bunt single with one down and took second base on a throwing error by Ficociello. After Johnson went down on strikes, Maddox came through with his first extra-base hit since April 1 with his third double of the campaign to score Pigott. Although redshirt sophomore Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) reached on an infield single to third base, pushing Maddox to third, Fant had Pigott pop up to end the frame.

 

Florida seized a 2-1 lead in the third on a fielder’s choice by senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.). Sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (2-for-4) collected his second double of the game with one down and an infield hit by junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) gave the Gators runners on the corners with one down. Both Tucker and Zunino raised their hitting streaks to 11 games tonight. Adams’ grounder forced Tucker at second base but brought in Zunino to move the visitors in front.

 

The Hogs answered with three runs with two out in the bottom of the frame on an RBI single by Ficociello and a two-run double by senior Kyle Robinson to grab a 4-2 lead. Redshirt junior Tim Carver led off with a double down the left-field line before Johnson retired the next two hitters. McCann drew a walk for a pair of runners aboard and Ficociello singled through the right side to even the score. Moments later, Robinson cleared the bases with a two-bagger into the left-field corner.

 

The Gators pulled to within 4-3 in the fifth when senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) scored as Zunino hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Smith had opened the inning with a walk and sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) followed with a single into right field to move Smith over to third base.

 

A leadoff single by Bo Bigham in the home part of the frame ended the night for Johnson (4.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K). Junior Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) caught Kuhn looking on strikes and McCann blooped a single into shallow left for two Hogs on base. The righty answered with consecutive strikeouts of Ficociello and Robinson to hold the deficit at 4-3.

 

Arkansas had a couple of runners in scoring position in the sixth with one down but came away empty-handed. Redshirt freshman Franco Broyles (2-for-4) sliced a one-out single into left field and junior Jarrod McKinney singled into left field, moving Broyles to third, while McKinney went to second on the relay throw. Toledo had Carver line out to second and then induced an inning-ending grounder by Bigham.

 

Astin took over for Fant prior to the seventh and retired the Gators in order. Toledo plunked Kuhn to begin the home part of the stanza and McCann advanced his teammate into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Junior Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) replaced Toledo (2.1 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 3 K) and walked Ficociello, prompting another call to the bullpen. Junior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) had Robinson ground out, advancing both runners into scoring position, and walked Reynolds intentionally to load the bases with two down. Broyles smashed a hard single that ticked off Maddox’s glove for an infield single that enabled Kuhn to score for a 5-3 count. Larson had McKinney ground out to complete the inning.

 

Freshman Karsten Whitson (Chipley Fla.) (6-0, 2.02) will start tomorrow’s finale against an Arkansas sophomore left-hander Cade Lynch (4-2, 2.65). The game will be carried live on ESPNU at 8 p.m.

 

For all of the latest information on Florida baseball, log on to http://www.gatorzone.com/baseball/ or, for up-to-the-minute updates, follow the team’s Twitter account @GatorZoneBB at www.twitter.com/GatorZoneBB

 

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