Arkansas used timely hitting and quality pitching for the second straight night as the No. 18 Razorbacks downed the No. 4 Gators 5-3 Friday night before a crowd of 9,286 fans at Baum Stadium.
It was the second win in as many nights for Arkansas (32-14, 12-11) over Florida (35-12, 17-6) and gave the Razorbacks a chance to sweep the series on Saturday night at 7 p.m..
"We'll use everybody we've got (Saturday) – we don't play for a week," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "Tomorrow's the end of our monster week that we've been talking about. These guys have handled it pretty good and shown how tough we are. We'll see what happens tomorrow."
The Razorbacks have now won 8 straight games in Fayetteville over the Gators and would love to make that nine.
"It's hard to beat anybody two out of three," Van Horn said. "When you have a chance to sweep somebody, go get it. It's going to be tough."
Florida had won six of its previous seven series, including the last five in a row, but Arkansas has ended that streak.
"We have had a 4-3 game and a 5-3 game," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "It's not that we are playing terrible. Arkansas is just playing a little bit better. I know one thing - we will be ready to play tomorrow. We are not going to hang our heads. These have been two tough games. Arkansas has just played a little bit better."
It was the fourth game of a five-game week for the Razorbacks.
Dominic Ficociello and Kyle Robinson both had a pair of RBIs in the win while freshman Franco Broyles added a key RBI single for an insurance run in the seventh.
Four of the five Arkansas runs came with two outs.
"All year long we have had a bunch of two-out rallies that have led to victories for us late in games," Ficociello said. "It is big for us to just keep playing to the last out of every inning. Those runs will come in handy just like they do every night."
Broyles had been lightly used before this week and was just 2-of-17 at the plate entering his key at-bat in the seventh.
"I was worried because we'd left some runners on base, then Broyles got a big hit – about took the third baseman's glove off," Van Horn said. "He gave us an insurance run. I'm proud of him. We've been watching him swing in practice and he's been getting better."
Randall Fant (2-3) went the first six innings and teamed with reliever Barrett Astin to retire the final 14 Gators that came to the plate.
"Randall will tell you that he didn't have his best stuff," Van Horn said. "He was up in the zone early in the game. We got out of a couple of jams, made a couple nice plays. We were just kind of hanging around. I was a little worried because we left some runs out there."
Fant allowed three runs on seven hits while fanning three and walking a pair while Astin was electric with four Ks while delivering a trio of three-up, three-down innings of work.
"I just come in and do what they tell me to do," Astin said. "Tonight, the plan was for me to go two, then have (Trent) Daniel come in and shut it down like he does, but I was feeling good and didn't allow anything."
After DJ Baxendale's complete-game effort last night in Arkansas' 4-3 win on Thursday night, the Razorbacks will head into the finale having used just three pitchers in 18 innings.
"That's definitely a good team, one of the best teams in the country," Astin said. "Our pitching staff's done a great job this weekend."
Fant and Astin out-dueled Florida starter and loser Brain Johnson (7-2) - who was chased after giving up four runs in just four innings - and a quartet of relievers.
"I was so proud of our pitchers," Van Horn said. "They just came out and got after it. We faced a really good pitcher tonight, some really good relievers and scored just enough runs to win."
Arkansas jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Collin Kuhn reached on an error, raced to third on James McCann's single and scored on Ficociello's sacrifice fly.
Florida then took the lead on Austin Maddox's RBI double in the second inning and Josh Adams' run-scoring fielder's choice - that was almost a double play.
The call brought out Van Horn for one a pair of visits on the night with first base umpire Stephen Hagan.
It did fire up his team who rallied to take the lead in the third.
Ficociello, now up to a team-leading 41 RBIs while sporting a healthy .348 batting average, singled to plate Tim Carver, who had led off the third with a double.
Robinson then ripped an RBI double down the left field line that chased home James McCann and Ficociello and gave the Razorbacks a 4-3 lead.
"It was a handing slider," Robinson said. "I kind of knew they were going to give me one fastball early in the count to hit. Then I knew they would try to come with something off speed. I saw it, he kind of hung it inside and I turned on it down the line."
The Razorbacks then took the 5-3 lead in the seventh when Broyles, the grandson of former Arkansas athletic director J. Frank Broyles, delivered a run-scoring RBI single off the third baseman's glove.
The Gators intentionally walked Florida native Matt Reynolds to get to Broyles, who had virtually been on the shelf until this week.
"That is an exciting situation with the bases loaded," Broyles said. "I was thankful for the opportunity to stay in the game. Normally there would be a left-handed hitter in that situation. I was thankful for Coach Van Horn trusting and believing in me.
"I thought he caught it at first and I just kind of dropped my head," Broyles said. "But then I heard the crowd cheer when it came out of his glove. I was just glad it got done and we got the one run. That's just baseball there. People always say it is a game of inches."
Arkansas will send out Cade Lynch (4-2, 2.65) for the sweep on Saturday night in a 7 p.m. game that will be televised by ESPNU.
Florida will counter with unbeaten Karston Whitson (6-0, 2.03).
It seems to be a far different team that lost to Southeast Missouri State on Wednesday to split a two-game set.
"You have got to have short term memory," Robinson said. "We lost on Wednesday and just came right back out this weekend. We knew we had something to prove."