Arkansas Solidifies Defense In Win

FAYETTEVILLE -- Recently, Arkansas baseball fans have had every right to bellyache about sloppy defense.

The moaning and groaning was justified.

That changed dramatically Friday night during a 4-1 win against No. 6 Florida in front of 6,993 fans in Baum Stadium.

For the most part, Arkansas played flawless defense.

When Razorbacks third baseman Clay Goodwin speared a line drive off the bat of Brian Jeroloman in the ninth, it was a perfect ending.

And a far cry from the beginning when Hogs shortstop Scott Hode was charged with an error to open the game.

Talk about a bad omen.

"You know, that was a tough ball hit to Hode," said Razorbacks catcher Brian Walker. "I mean it was hit well and took a big hop. That never hurt us a bit. Yeah, you might think, 'OK, maybe, here we go again,' but it didn't turn out that way, not by a long shot."

Take away that error in the first inning and Arkansas would have had its second flawless performance in the past 14 games. The Hogs' last game without an error came April 23 in a 7-0 loss against LSU.

Last Sunday, the Razorbacks had three errors in a 7-1 loss against Kentucky, which clearly helped lose that series. Arkansas has had a season-high five errors twice. The first time came during an 8-6 win at Auburn on April 3, then a 4-3 loss at Tennessee on April 17.

Two plays stood out. In the third inning, Goodwin made a high, leaping, stab on a shot by Stephen Barton.

In the sixth inning, Razorbacks center fielder Craig Gentry robbed Gators left fielder Matt LaPorta, the Southeastern Conference's home run leader -- he had 17 coming in --of another one. Gentry backpedaled to the left center-field wall and caught it before it went out.

"At first, I thought it was out," Gentry said. "It started hanging out there, then I said, 'I don't know.' I thought I was going to have to jump up for it. Then I came down and said, 'I know it's not a home run.'

"I had to put my hand against the wall to brace myself because I was afraid, at first, I was going to have to jump up and get it.

"It didn't work out that way."

Hode said defense, plus the complete-game pitching of Nick Schmidt, was the difference Friday night.

"Tonight, we just kicked it up a gear," Hode said. "(Hogs second baseman) Ben Tschepikow was money up the middle.

"We had some great plays over there at third and Goody (Goodwin) made some great plays and we had them in the outfield, too.

"This was a big, big win."

Gentry agreed.

"Oh man, our defense was amazing," Gentry said. "We made a lot of great plays with a lot of pressure. Everyone came in and played their position and just did great tonight, up-and-down the order."

Walker said Arkansas deserved to win this one.

"We've worked hard all week in practice," Walker said. "We put in a lot of time on fundamentals and defense, defense, defense.

"It paid off tonight."

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