Hogs take first game

HOOVER, Ala. — A sharply-hit ball came off Andy Wilkins' bat in the first inning Wednesday, hit an umpire, landed in the infield and prevented Ben Tschepikow from scoring the game's first run.

It was the type of strange moment the Razorbacks had grown accustomed to during their eight-game, Southeastern Conference skid. Scoring has been ridiculously difficult. All kinds of frustrating factors — umpires included — seemed to keep them off the scoreboard.

"What do you do?" Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said with a laugh.

Arkansas answered Van Horn's question throughout the rest of its 8-5 win against Florida in the first round of the SEC Tournament in Regions Park on Wednesday. The Razorbacks shrugged off the first-inning frustration, capitalized on four Florida errors, got clutch hits and key relief pitching in a much-needed win.

Arkansas (33-20) advances to play Georgia (36-20), which beat Ole Miss 6-3, in the SEC Tournament winner's bracket tonight at 5.

"We had a lot of confidence coming in here because that's the type of players we are," said Arkansas outfielder Chase Leavitt, who went 2-for-5 with 2 RBIs and one run scored. "We've had some heartbreakers. ... But to get the first win, it's big. We got the momentum and we just want to build off of that."

Even though Arkansas couldn't score in the first inning, it looked the part of a confident team even without injured shortstop Scott Lyons who sat out his second straight game with a shoulder injury.

The Razorbacks did most of their damage at the plate by scoring five runs in the fourth inning. Every run came with two outs.

Tom Hauskey, who pinch hit for catcher Ryan Cisterna, got the first clutch hit with an RBI single off Florida starter Stephen Locke (4-2).

Leavitt followed with another RBI single. After Tschepikow walked, Travis Sample hit a two-run double to give the Razorbacks a 6-2 lead.

"We haven't gotten a lot lately, hardly any," Van Horn said about his team's two-out hitting. "I can't remember the last one to be honest with you. It's almost like it opened the floodgate. ... We scored all five runs with two outs. When was the last time we did that?"

Arkansas managed to hold on the rest of the game even though starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel struggled. The left-hander only gave up two hits, but walked a career-high six batters in 3 2/3 innings. It was his shortest stint since going 3 1/3 against Vanderbilt in April.

But Bolsinger (4-4), who replaced Keuchel with two runners on base in the fourth inning, was impressive out of the pen. He gave up a two-run single to Florida's Preston Tucker to make it 6-5 in the inning, but it was the only hit the reliever surrendered in his 4 1/3 innings.

"Mike came in and settled the game down and gave us a chance to regroup because it was turning the other way," Van Horn said.

Arkansas grabbed a little more breathing room in the late innings with Leavitt's RBI single in the eighth and Zack Cox's solo home run in the ninth. It was enough for Arkansas closer Stephen Richards, who got Florida's Josh Adams to ground into a double play to end the game.

"They just did a nice job," said Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan, whose team plays Ole Miss in an elimination game at 10 a.m. "They've got a good team. It's just a matter of putting it together."

Arkansas, which swept Florida to start SEC play in March, improved to 4-0 against the Gators this season.

But Bolsinger said it didn't matter who the Razorbacks were playing in the first round of the tournament. They just wanted to bury their season-ending struggles and begin experiencing success this week.

"The regular season was over and we left that behind us," he said.

"This is the postseason now and we wanted to start off fresh. ... This is a great start and hopefully it will give us some momentum."

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