Gators Struggle to Grab Momentum in Loss

Whenever No. 2 Florida has looked like it was building momentum in recent weeks, it has been quick to change that soon after. It happened again on Saturday. After opening the series with a win over Arkansas on Friday, the Gators made two crucial errors and couldn't get hits with runners in scoring position as Arkansas tied the series with a 5-1 lead.

"It was just a weird game. The bottom line is we've scored in two innings of 17 chances," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said about his team's 17 innings at the plate this series. "We're going to have to score more runs. A hit here or a hit there with two outs and runners in scoring position-- it comes down to that, especially with a pitching staff like Arkansas'."

The Razorbacks took a 1-0 lead in the third inning, and the Gators bounced back with a rally of their own. Daniel Pigott reached on a fielding error by first baseman Dominic Ficociello and Preston Tucker followed with a single to start the inning.

All-American catcher Mike Zunino was then called on to bunt. Zunino popped it up to the pitcher. Brian Johnson, who started the game on the mound, followed with a single off Ficociello's glove to score Pigott and tie the game. Austin Maddox lined a single up the middle, but Tucker was thrown out at the plate by center fielder Jacob Morris. Casey Turgeon grounded out to end the threat.

The bunt by Zunino slowed Florida's momentum, and two of the inning's outs came on the failed bunt and a runner being thrown out at home.

"I just felt like tonight's game would be a game where whoever scored three or four would probably have a chance to win," O'Sullivan said. "It ended up being close to that with five runs. With their pitching staff, you're not going to get many opportunities."

Two innings later, Arkansas delivered the knockout punch with a four-run inning. Ficociello delivered a one-out single to left, and Tim Carver scored when left fielder Jeff Moyer failed to field the ball cleanly. Ficociello then scored on an RBI single by Matt Reynolds.

Bo Bigham followed with a bunt single to third, and Reynolds went to third as the throw got away. Jimmy Bosco and Michael Gunn later contributed with RBI singles against Florida reliever Greg Larson.

Johnson wasn't sharp for Florida. He gave up eight hits and five runs in 4.1 innings while striking out six.

"He fell behind in the count a little bit," O'Sullivan said. "Balls seem to find holes when you fall behind. That's just the game of baseball. When you're ahead, the ball find somebody. When you're behind in the count, somehow the ball finds a hole."

Keenan Kish threw four perfect innings of relief to save the Florida bullpen.

The Gators will go for the series win on Sunday against Arkansas. Florida will send sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford to the mound against Razorbacks right-hander DJ Baxendale.


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