Tim Casey / UAA Communications

#2 Gators head to Arkansas for three games

#2 Florida travels to Fayetteville, Arkansas after putting the finishing touches on the sweep of #6 Florida State. The Gators will be facing a Razorbacks club that is looking like General George C. Custer and his men at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Arkansas (21-12, 4-8) is on the brink of missing the NCAA Tournament. The Razorbacks host Florida this weekend before traveling to #22 Kentucky. In two weeks, they host a top ten Texas A&M team before traveling to Baton Rouge to face the Tigers. And they still haven’t faced Mississippi State or Alabama.

Where are those wins that help them advance into the tourney?

Did You Know: The Razorbacks surrendered 29 runs last weekend while being swept by the Ole Miss Rebels. In two previous SEC series, the Hogs gave up 24 runs each to South Carolina and Missouri.

This might be just what the doctor ordered for the 3-6 batters in the Florida lineup. J.J. Schwarz, Pete Alonso, Deacon Liput, and Mike Rivera haven’t been bad. They have been inconsistent of late and to quote Willie Keeler- struggled to “put the ball where they ain’t”.

And maybe they’re already on the mend after a tough series against Mississippi State that saw them go a combined 7 for 49 (.143) with 4 RBI’s and an Alonso home run.

Schwarz had a monster outing in Tallahassee going 3 for 4 with 3 RBI’s, which included a bomb over the left field fence. Alonso went 3 for 5 with a double that just missed sailing over the screen in right field. Meanwhile, the Seminoles took out there frustrations on Rivera, plunking him twice.

 

#2 Florida (30-5) at Arkansas (21-12)

Thursday  9pm

Junior LHP A.J. Puk (1-2, 3.38)

Junior RHP Dominic Taccolini (3-1, 5.31)

Friday   7:30pm

Junior RHP Logan Shore (6-0, 2.66)

Soph. RHP Keaton McKInney (1-1, 6.25)

Saturday   3pm

Soph. RHP Alex Faedo (6-1, 3.97)

TBA

 

O’Sullivan shook the lineup a little in the Florida State game with the following look and coincidence or not, it paid off for Schwarz and Alonso, who feasted on Seminoles pitching.

2 Liput, 3 Reed, 4 Schwarz, and 5 Alonso

I would expect the same order as the Gators prepare to face Arkansas. Once again, Florida pounded out 12 hits in a recent game. They did so twice in the first two games of the Mississippi State series.

The Gators have struggled to get the timely hits and move guys around which has led to far too many runners stranded- 10 in game two against the Bulldogs and 13 in the Sunday finale.

Arkansas is led at the plate by redshirt sophomore third baseman Carson Shaddy (.356) and sophomore left fielder Luke Bonfield (.351), who hit in the two and three hole for the Razorbacks. Both players rank 1-2 in on-base and slugging percentage. Redshirt senior shortstop Michael Burnal leads the Hogs with seven home runs and 33 RBI’s.   

 

Teams

Batting Avg.

HR

Slugging %

BB

On Base %

K

Florida

.299

31

.461

162

.394

196

Arkansas

.287

33

.444

153

.380

224

 

A.J. Puk will get the Thursday night start before an ESPNU audience. Puk has thrown bullpen sessions and according to head coach Kevin O’Sullivan is fine. The junior hasn’t thrown since April 3rd. It’s a good opportunity to showcase one of the nation’s top college baseball prospects before the nationally televised audience.

The last time Puk faced Arkansas was in the 2015 SEC Baseball Tournament. He went seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits and three walks, while striking out 11 in a complete game that was halted by the mercy rule.

I wouldn’t be too concerned about Alex Faedo’s poor start against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs jumped on him early and got to him again in the 3rd. However, he finished strong in the 4th and 5th innings, which was a very good sign. Should he struggle against Arkansas, then there is reason for concern, but the guy has been a rock all season.

The Florida bullpen looks to be in great shape for the Arkansas series, which could have been dicey considering how the Mississippi State series played out and having the FSU game perfectly sandwiched between the conclusion of the MSU series and start of the Arkansas series. Kowar’s ability to go four innings in a hostile environment was huge.

Dane Dunning, Brady Singer will be available on Thursday night. Jackson Kowar and Kirby Snead will be available the reminder of the series. O’Sullivan has gotten several opportunities for Frank Rubio and Nick Horvath over the past week. 

Snead (3-0, 0.72) has pitched 4.2 shutout innings, allowing just five hits and one walk, while striking out three.

Dunning (2-2, 2.89) has been enormous as well. The junior gave the Gators a great outing in the Sunday 2-1 loss to Mississippi State. He surrendered five hits and just one earned run in five innings. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the necessary run support.

Florida humiliated Thursday night starter Dominic Taccolini with four earned runs and a pair of walks. Taccolini lasted just two innings- 45 pitches.

Things have been so bad for the Razorbacks that Taccolini and Keaton McKinney- their top two starters were yanked after their dismal outings in the Missouri series. Arkansas has yet to establish a third starter.

Keep an eye on redshirt junior RHP Josh Alberius (3-0, 0.78) and senior RHP Doug Willey (1-1, 3.00, 2 saves) out of the bullpen. Junior RHP Zach Jackson (2-3, 4.67) leads the Razorbacks with four saves.

 

 

Teams

ERA

WHIP

Opp. BA

K’s

BB

Florida

2.95

1.09

.221

369

87

Arkansas

4.55

1.42

.266

281

125

 

The Florida defense was outstanding in Tallahassee. I’d argue that Dalton Guthrie rivaled J.J Schwarz and Jackson Kowar as the player of the game. Guthrie’s stellar defensive play and hot bat helped lift the Gators to a .984 fielding percentage, which 4th nationally.

 Arkansas enters the game with a strong defense. The Razorbacks are fourth in the SEC with a fielding percentage of .978, 21st nationally.

  

Teams

Errors

Double Plays

Steal Att.

Fielding %

Florida

22

20

112

.984

Arkansas

28

29

78

.978

 

Mark McLeod has covered Florida baseball (and football) since 1996. He is a co-host on “Sports Time!’ heard weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on Florida Sports Talk/NBC Sports- FM 100.1, AM 900, & AM 1230 (Gainesville/Ocala). Listen at FloridaSportsTalk.fm. He also co-hosts “The Gator Blitz” podcast twice weekly with Brent Beaird. Join Mark, Bob Redman, Derek Tyson, and Zach Albolverdi at the Gainesville House of Beer on Friday, April 15th at 7pm for the 2nd “Florida Football Recruiting Roundtable”. Follow Mark on twitter @McLeodLive

 


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