SEC BASEBALL:

Hogs score first, don’t stop there

By: KEITH CHARTRAND SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Published: Monday, March 17, 2014
Brian Anderson was the only Arkansas player with multiple hits in a 3-0 loss at Auburn on Thursday.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Brian Anderson was the only Arkansas player with multiple hits in a 3-0 loss at Auburn on Thursday.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Four consecutive one-run losses had Arkansas on a slide heading into the third game of its SEC-opening series against Florida on Sunday.

Arkansas ended the skid, and the Razorbacks left no doubt about it with a 9-3 victory.

It was a much-needed turnaround, and it sends Arkansas (9-7, 1-2) home with a positive vibe after a 7-game, 10-day, 6,700-mile road trip.

“Today could have been a day where [we] could have just rolled over not because we lost the first two games by a total of 2 runs but all that has gone on,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “You have to be tough. You have to fight through it and that is what they did.”

Arkansas’ bats came alive after being held to one run in the first two games of the Florida series, losing 2-1 on Friday and 1-0 on Saturday.

Jake Wise had two hits, including a home run, Clark Eagan had two hits and Brian Anderson drove in three runs.

The Razorbacks knocked out Gators starter A.U. Puk (1-2) with 5 hits and 4 runs in the first 2 innings, picking up 1 run in the first and 3 in the second.

“That first inning was big for us, having the first guy get on base, moving him over and getting him in,” Anderson said. “Any time you can get it rolling early it pushes the other team’s back up against the wall. That is what you want to do here in the SEC.”

The Razorbacks have scored first in all nine of their victories, and that’s what happened Sunday.

Leadoff hitter Andrew Benintendi was at third base with with one out in the first inning, reaching second base on a throwing error and advancing to third after tagging up on a Tyler Spoon fly ball to right field.

Benintendi scored on Anderson’s sacrifice fly to center field for a 1-0 Razorbacks lead.

Florida (13-7, 2-1) went scoreless in the home half of the first.

Arkansas got all the runs they would need in the second, scoring three runs while sending seven batters to the plate.

Catcher Jake Wise led off with his first home run to make it 2-0. Anderson’s two-out, two-run double made it 4-0, scoring Spoon and Mike Bernal, who reached on walks.

Anderson knocked in three runs Sunday and has 13 RBI for the season.

The Gators got one run off Hogs starter Chris Oliver in the second.

Arkansas scored two more in the fourth to make it 6-1, aided by back-to-back walks by reliever Dane Danning to start the inning. Anderson moved Benintendi and Spoon over to second and third with a sacrifice bunt. Benintendi scored on a passed ball and backup first baseman Blake Baxendale bunted home Spoon to give Arkansas a five-run lead.

Florida cut the lead to 6-3 in the bottom of the fourth off Dominic Taccolini, the runs coming on Braden Mattson’s two-run single.

Arkansas added three in the ninth to complete the scoring.

“They bounced back after a really tough loss last night,” Van Horn said. “We were frustrated but they came out with a serious attitude and played well. I knew we were going to play well.”

One negative to come out of the series was the continuing slump of designated hitter Krisjon Wilkerson, who came into the series with a team-leading .424 average. Wilkerson went 0 for 11 and struck out five times in three games, dropping his average to .318.

“He is letting too many pitches go by early that are very hittable,” said Van Horn. “I would like to see him go out there a little more aggressive.”

The Razorbacks return home for the first time in 18 days on Tuesday to play Grambling State at 5:05 p.m. at Baum Stadium.

Up next ARKANSAS VS. GRAMBLING STATE WHEN 5:05 p.m. Tuesday WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville RECORDS Arkansas 9-7; Grambling State 3-15 RADIO RSN statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings INTERNET www.arkansasrazorbacks.com

Sports, Pages 15 on 03/17/2014

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