Arkansas Rally Falls Short Against No. 6 Gators

FAYETTEVILLE -- It was about as miserable as being thrown under a moving bus and probably as uncomfortable as having a tooth removed without pain killers.

SUGGESTED HEAD: Arkansas Rally

After Arkansas lost 11-10 against No. 6 Florida in Baum Stadium on a dark, cloudy, rainy Sunday, hearts were immediately broken.

Despite rallying for four, ninth-inning runs -- and playing under a strict curfew -- the Razorbacks (35-14, 11-13 in the Southeastern Conference), couldn't pull it off.

But oh, how they tried.

"I'm real proud of our team, they didn't quit," said Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn. "It was fun to watch them compete the last four or five innings.

"They hung in there."

This edge-of-your-seat thriller was one for the ages.

In that dramatic ninth, none of the 2,122 fans wanted to leave until it was finally completed.

"That's why they said it's never over until the 27th out is made," said Florida coach Pat McMahon. "Give Arkansas credit, it battled almost all the way back and never gave up."

Arkansas, which trailed 10-1 in the sixth inning, just wouldn't go away and fought like Davey Crockett at the Alamo for the last solider to get his last shot aimed.

Trailing 11-6, Razorbacks center fielder Craig Gentry got things going by reaching with an infield hit in the ninth. Clint Arnold then singled and Danny Hamblin walked to load the bases.

Pinch-hitter Blake Parker followed by striking out. Scott Hode then hit a two-RBI single to right, but Arnold was thrown out at home on a controversial play.

"It looked like he was safe," Van Horn said. "I mean, I didn't see our players going crazy. They had a good look.

"Did you think he was safe?"

Arnold certainly did.

"I thought I was safe," Arnold said. "I thought I was safe for sure."

Guess what happened next?

Razorbacks third baseman Clay Goodwin jacks a three-run home run to left to slice the lead to 11-10. Then left fielder Chris Hollensworth deposits a double into right field.

But ...

When Gators reliever Connor Falkenbach got freshman Ben Tschepikow to strike out looking, the misery for fans sunk in for good.

Van Horn, however, didn't see it that way.

"The players got after it," Van Horn said. "With one more break, we might have swept this thing. You know, that's just the way it worked out. The players were disappointed.

"On the other hand, all the coaches were positive with the effort. Naturally, we didn't like the pitching but everything else was fine."

"The first two pitchers (Razorbacks starter Josh Smith and reliever Lee Land), bottom line, didn't throw many strikes, didn't compete. It was real disappointing.

"It's tough when you're down 7-1, 8-1, 9-1. A lot of teams just roll over and quit and our guys didn't do that.

"That was a great effort."

Florida (32-15, 15-9) jumped out to a 7-0 lead in its first two at-bats. It pushed the score to 8-1 in the fourth on another controversial call, this time a homer by Gators first baseman Matt LaPorta. His homer somehow wrapped around the left-field pole.

"Oh, it was foul, foul ball, " Van Horn said. "I mean, I've seen that ball 100 times since I've been here. With the wind blows like that ... yeah, it as up and it was fair when it started but ended up foul. It was too hard a call to call it fair.

"You know, that's my opinion, and probably everyone elses in the stadium."

All that aside, Arkansas won the series and keeps its hopes alive for the SEC Tournament at the end of the month.

Still, the pain wouldn't go away.

"That's really frustrating right there," Goodwin said. "You know, you get so close. We were really having a good weekend and it's disappointing, coming up short."

Arnold said he's proud of the comeback.

"Not just every team can do that, come back like that, after being down, seven, eight runs," Arnold said. "This team has a lot of heart. I think we can turn this into a positive.

"Not a negative."

Goodwin agreed.

"We can't get down on ourselves now," Goodwin said. "We can only let that fuel the fire, you know. Carry that over into the next weekend (on the road at SEC Western Division leader Alabama). Just a little more motivation.

"Maybe that's what we needed."

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