BASEBALL: Gators prevail over Arkansas in 9th, 9-8

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) -- Stephen Barton hit a run-scoring single in the bottom of the ninth to complete a seven-run comeback and lead top-seeded Florida to a 9-8 victory over No. 8 Arkansas on Wednesday in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Florida entered the eighth inning trailing 8-2 before Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn replaced starting pitcher Nick Schmidt, who allowed only hits, walked four and struck out seven in seven innings.

With Schmidt out, the Gators jumped on Arkansas relievers Daryl Maday, Brian McLelland and Charley Boyce for six runs on three hits, including a three-run home run by Jeff Corsaletti that cut the Arkansas lead to 8-7.

The Razorbacks also did their part in the eighth inning by issuing three walks and a wild pitch and committing two errors. A throwing error by second baseman John Marquardt allowed the Gators to tie the game 8-8 heading into the ninth inning.

After Florida's Darren O'Day (7-3) held Arkansas scoreless in the top of the ninth, the Gators put runners on first and third with one out before Barton hit a 3-2 pitch by Boyce (10-8) into centerfield, driving in the winning run.

After seventh-seeded Mississippi State upset No. 2 LSU and sixth-seeded South Carolina knocked off No. 3 Tennessee earlier in the day, the seventh-ranked Gators (39-18) became the day's first higher-seeded team to win.

Florida will play either Alabama or Ole Miss on Thursday at 8 p.m., while Arkansas (37-19) will play the Alabama-Ole Miss loser at 1 p.m.

POSTGAME QUOTES

Arkansas Head Coach Dave Van Horn "I'm obviously disappointed in the outcome of tonight's ball game. Nick (Schmidt) pitched a great game, and we blew another one that he could have easily won. I think he could have had double-digit wins this year if we hadn't have blown so many games for him. We have been struggling on the mound lately. I have to give credit to our guys for their first seven innings tonight. We just gave Florida too many extra swings, and they're too good of a team to give extra outs to."

Brian Walker, Catcher "We're distraught that we couldn't play nine innings like we played the first seven tonight. We have two options in front of us - we can fold up and pack our bags and just take tomorrow's loss or we can bounce back and play nine innings like we played the first seven. There's no reason this team can't do that. Tomorrow, when our alarm clocks go off, it's a new day with a new game."

Florida Head Coach Pat McMahon "I am very proud of the effort of our guys and their ability to come back, reach down and get things done tonight. I could not be happier. I am very proud of our guys.You have to be happy for these guys. The things done this season by our senior leadership like Jeff Corsaletti and Stephen Barton. They all work hard and continue to battle hard every game. I could not be proud of all of these guys."

Jeff Corsaletti, Outfielder "This game was a huge part of who we are. We had five errors and were not playing well at all, but we had guys like Chris Woods step up and play textbook baseball. All of our guys stepped up to help give us the win."

Stephen Barton, Infielder "We were coming off a great week at Vanderbilt. We had great momentum that helped give us a great comeback. We worked hard as a team and stepped up when it came time."

POSTGAME NOTES

  • * Tonight's game marks the first ever meeting between Arkansas and Florida in the SEC tournament
  • * The last time Arkansas scored first was May 7 vs. Florida, Arkansas drops to 27-8 when scoring first this season
  • * The last time Florida committed five errors and won the game was March 12, 2004 vs. Brown, when the Gators came away with a 14-8 victory
  • * Arkansas outfielder Clint Arnold had his streak of 7 straight hits broken when he struck out in his third at bat of the night in the 4th inning
  • * Florida right handed pitcher Connor Falkenbach made his 43rd appearance of the season, setting a Florida single-season record
  • * Arkansas catcher Brian Walker's three hits tonight tied his career high for hits in a single game
  • * Florida starting pitcher Stephen Locke matched his career high with seven strikeouts in tonights game
  • * Florida second baseman Adam Davis is now 8-for-11 (.727) this season with the bases loaded
  • * The Gators improve to 47-45 in the SEC tournament, while Arkansas falls to 14-20

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