Arkansas beats Florida to advance at SEC Tournament

By: Matt Jones
Published: Friday, May 25, 2018
Arkansas outfielder Dominic Fletcher makes a diving catch on a hit from Florida's Nelson Maldonado during the third inning of a Southeastern Conference tournament NCAA college baseball game, Friday, May 25, 2018, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Arkansas outfielder Dominic Fletcher makes a diving catch on a hit from Florida's Nelson Maldonado during the third inning of a Southeastern Conference tournament NCAA college baseball game, Friday, May 25, 2018, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Arkansas 8, Florida 2 - Final

Matt Cronin struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth and Arkansas is headed to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. The Razorbacks will play either LSU or Florida tomorrow in the late game tomorrow.

Blaine Knight improved to 10-0 with a great six-inning performance. Matt Cronin earned his 11th save, two shy of the Arkansas single-season record.

If there was any doubt that Arkansas was going to be a top eight national seed, defeating the No. 1 overall seed today ended that doubt. Arkansas has more top 25 RPI wins than any other team in the nation.

We'll have more soon at WholeHogSports.com.

Arkansas 8, Florida 2 - Middle 9th Inning



The Cowboy, Hunter Wilson, just hit a two-out, pinch-hit grand slam to give Arkansas an 8-2 lead.

Wilson, who has never hit a home run at Arkansas, lifted the ball high into right field after Heston Kjerstad was hit with two outs to load the bases. He sprinted around the bases as the dugout erupted and everyone met him on the field.

Those are huge insurance runs, obviously, but might allow Arkansas to get Matt Cronin out for the ninth and save his arm for another day.

Arkansas 4, Florida 2 - End 8th Inning

Matt Cronin did a great job limiting the damage in what could have been a huge Florida inning. He struck out Brady Smith on a high 1-2 fastball to end the inning and strand Gators on the corners.

Florida will send its 7, 8 and 9 hitters to the plate in the ninth.

Arkansas brings up the bottom of its order in the top of the ninth. Jared Gates and Jax Biggers each have hits today, and Biggers drew a walk.

Arkansas 4, Florida 2 - Bottom 8th Inning

Florida loaded the bases with one out after Matt Cronin struck out Jonathan India looking at a 1-2 pitch and walked Wil Dalton on a 3-2 fastball that was high in the zone. The lead runner scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Austin Langworthy.

Now there are two outs and runners on the corners.

Arkansas 4, Florida 1 - Bottom 8th Inning

Arkansas has run into trouble in the bottom of the eighth after Barrett Loseke gave up a leadoff single to Deacon Liput and issued a subsequent walk on a 3-2 pitch that Arkansas' dugout thought was a strike. Matt Cronin is replacing Loseke and will face the SEC player of the year, Jonathan India, who hit a home run to center field in the sixth.

Arkansas 4, Florida 1 - Middle 8th Inning

Luke Bonfield drew a leadoff walk - his third of the game - but was erased with a groundball double play by Dominic Fletcher. Casey Martin followed with a two-out single and stole second, but was stranded when Grant Koch grounded out to end the inning.

Arkansas has stranded six base runners today and Florida has stranded five. This is going to be the critical inning to watch as Barrett Loseke faces the top of the Gators' order.

Arkansas 4, Florida 1 - End 7th Inning

Barrett Loseke was sharp in the seventh, striking out the first two batters on strikeouts that painted the top outside corner. The inning ended on a foul out to the first baseman.

Arkansas 4, Florida 1 - Middle 7th Inning

Jax Biggers and Eric Cole each walked against an erratic Andrew Baker in the top of the seventh, but Carson Shaddy hit into a double play and Biggers was stranded at third when Heston Kjerstad grounded out to end the inning.

That was a missed opportunity for Arkansas.

Blaine Knight's day is finished and Barrett Loseke will pitch the bottom of the seventh against the bottom of the Florida lineup. Knight's final line: 6 innings, 1 run, 4 hits, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts. He is in line for his 10th win and cannot be the loser, meaning he will remain undefeated going into NCAA play.

Arkansas 4, Florida 1 - End 6th Inning

Jonathan India led off the sixth with a solo home run to center field, just beyond the leaping glove of Dominic Fletcher. Blaine Knight retired the next three batters - possibly his final three - with a groundout and two fly outs. His pitch count is 99 and Barrett Loseke is warming up in the bullpen.

Florida is making a pitching change in the seventh, bringing in left-hander Andrew Baker to replace Jackson Kowar. The final line for Kowar: 6 innings, 4 runs, 7 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts. He is in line for the loss.

Arkansas 4, Florida 0 - Middle 6th Inning

The Razorbacks tacked on two more in the sixth and drove Jackson Kowar's pitch count way up in the process.

Heston Kjerstad led off with a single and Luke Bonfield followed with a walk. Both scored on RBI hits by Dominic Fletcher and Jared Gates.

Fletcher's hit came after he showed bunt twice - both were balls - and then swung away on a 2-1 pitch that went down the left field line. Casey Martin and Grant Koch failed on a sacrifice fly opportunities by striking out, but Gates went the other way with two outs to score Bonfield from third base.

The inning ended when Fletcher was thrown out at third base trying to go corner to corner.

Kowar has now thrown 100 pitches.

Arkansas 2, Florida 0 - End 5th Inning

Blaine Knight is doing what he does, which is work around trouble. He gave up a one-out single in the fifth, but got out of the inning with a swinging strikeout away from No. 1 hitter Deacon Liput and a groundout by Nelson Maldonado. He has thrown 82 pitches and Florida has stranded five.

Arkansas 2, Florida 0 - Middle 5th Inning

Jax Biggers reached on a one-out single but was erased on a fielder's choice by Eric Cole. Cole advanced to second on a stolen base without a throw, but was ordered to go back to first because of what the umpire deemed interference by batter Carson Shaddy, who protested. The next pitch was 3-2 and Shaddy was called out looking at a borderline pitch at the knees.

Arkansas 2, Florida 0 - End 4th Inning

Florida has made a couple of questionable base running decisions today that has helped Blaine Knight work out of some trouble.

In the third inning it was the decision by the catcher to tag on the shallow flyout to center field. In the fourth it was when Jonathan India came home on a one-out dribbler to Knight off the mound. Knight easily threw out India at home plate, then stranded two with a flyout to left field.

The Gators have stranded four base runners and have not been able to take advantage of a rare game in which Knight has lacked command. He has issued three walks and given up two hits. His pitch count is 69.

Arkansas 2, Florida 0 - Middle 4th Inning



SEC player of the year Jonathan India just made a great play from third base to rob Grant Koch of an RBI base hit and end the top of the fourth inning. Luke Bonfield, who reached on a leadoff double and advanced on a sacrifice fly, was stranded at third.

India made a diving stop to his left and threw out Koch. It was the second time in as many games he has had a play like that. He made a great stop and throw against LSU the other night to rob the Tigers of a run in the eighth. This one was a bit less spectacular, but good, nonetheless.

Arkansas 2, Florida 0 - End 3rd Inning



Dominic Fletcher made the SEC All-Defensive Team earlier this week. If there wasn't enough evidence to support why he made it, enter his inning-ending double play in the third.

Fletcher made a diving catch in shallow center, then hopped to his feet and threw out catcher Jonah Girand, who attempted to tag from second to third. Girand, who is filling in for injured All-SEC catcher JJ Schwarz, reached on a leadoff double.

Arkansas 2, Florida 0 - Middle 3rd Inning

Eric Cole reached with a one-out single to the opposite field, but Jackson Kowar struck out the side. Arkansas hitters are having some trouble with his changeup. His pitch count is 44 through three innings.

Arkansas 2, Florida 0 - End 2nd Inning

Blaine Knight gave up a one-out walk to Brady Smith, but a breaker to the next batter, Shane Shifflett, induced a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Knight struck out Austin Langworthy to begin the inning. Langworthy was the third Florida batter in the top five of the order to go down swinging against Knight's fastball.

Arkansas 2, Florida 0 - Top 2nd Inning



Casey Martin just hit a towering shot to left field - his third home run of the tournament - to give Arkansas a 2-0 lead. It scored Luke Bonfield, who reached on a leadoff walk.

It was a no-doubter and Martin took time to stare it down before taking off on his home run trot.

Arkansas 0, Florida 0 - End 1st Inning

Blaine Knight's fastball looked electric in the first inning, running it between 92-94 mph and using it to strike out two batters swinging. Knight worked around a one-out single by Nelson Maldonado. SEC player of the year Jonathan India took Knight to a 3-2 count, but flied out for the second out.

In part because of the single, Knight had to work a little harder than Jackson Kowar in the first inning. Their pitch counts are 21 and 12, respectively.

Arkansas 0, Florida 0 - Middle 1st Inning

Arkansas went down in order in the top of the first with Eric Cole (fly out), Carson Shaddy (groundout) and Heston Kjerstad (groundout) all making contact. Florida pitcher Jackson Kowar hit 96 mph on the radar gun that inning and had good-looking depth on his off-speed pitches.

Pregame

How about this for the first game of the day at the SEC Tournament?

Arkansas and Florida, a pair of probable national top eight seeds, will meet with a trip to the tournament semifinals on the line. This is a non-elimination game. The loser plays LSU in an elimination game later tonight.

Today's pitching matchup is about as good as you'll find as Arkansas junior right-hander Blaine Knight (9-0, 2.88 ERA) goes up against Florida sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (9-3, 3.01 ERA). Kowar was not scheduled to pitch this game yesterday, but the extra day of rest prompted the Gators to replace scheduled starter, Jack Leftwich, a freshman right-hander with a 4-4 record and 4.80 ERA.

Knight and Kowar both won games between Arkansas and Florida earlier this year in Gainesville, Fla.

Arkansas shortstop Jax Biggers is back in the lineup today after missing the past six games - and most of a seventh - with a broken finger suffered in the opening game against Texas A&M two weeks ago today. Biggers will bat ninth.

Florida is without All-SEC catcher JJ Schwarz, who broke his hand last week.

The temperature in Hoover today is supposed to be in the mid-80s with high humidity. There is a chance of rain and thunderstorms, increasing in the afternoon hours.

Kevin Sweeney is today's home plate umpire. Scott Cline is the crew chief at first base.

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