Shortstop Adam Davis deserves much of the credit with his game winning three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth that finally allowed the Gators to pass the Razorbacks in the run column. But, make no mistake. As important as Davis' blast was to seal their fate- this victory was a combination of big plays by the Florida veterans, young role players making the most of their opportunities, and that all important bullpen.
"You want to get hits when it counts," Davis said after the win. "Everybody can get hits when were up ten to zip and there's no pressure on. But, I seem to thrive under pressure and hopefully I'll not jinx myself for saying this, but those are situations that I like to be in.
"It was a slider on the inside corner," he added. "I was looking for something to hit hard- trying to get a hit. Luckily, it went out of the park."
The Razorbacks (17-3, 1-2) scored five runs in the first inning. Freshman Chas Spottswood was greeted by back-to-back singles by Craig Gentry and Clint Arnold. His fourth pitch of the game allowed Arkansas to load the bases, courtesy of a Danny Hamblin bunt that Spottswood misplayed. He hit Brian Walker for the Razorbacks first score. James Ewing flew out to right field scoring Arnold. David Hum followed with a single through the right side of the infield scoring Gentry. Spottswood then made a pickoff throw that sailed wide of the bag to move the runners up. Jake Dugger singled home the Hogs fourth run and Coach Pat McMahon pulled Spottswood.
Reliever Josh Edmondson came on and got Blake Parker to ground pout to Davis at short, but the Razorbacks picked up their fifth run of the inning. Edmondson struck out shortstop Josh Willard to end the first with Arkansas leading 5-0.
Spottswood allowed four hits, three earned runs, and committed a pair of costly errors. However, many freshmen have suffered through the brutal SEC learning curve and gone on to productive careers. McMahon espoused optimism that Spottswood too would persevere through the experience.
The Florida bullpen came through. Edmondson pitched 3.2 innings in which he allowed only one earned run on three hits. Southpaw David Hurst held the Razorbacks scoreless until surrendering a baserunner in the top of the seventh that scored on a fielders' choice with Matt Hightower on the mound. Arkansas scored their seventh and final run in the frame.
"I'm really proud of our guys and their effort." McMahon said. "Obviously, when games are being played and you're down a bunch of runs. That's one of the great things about sports and athletics- you keep playing pitch by pitch and inning by inning and play your hearts out. We had some very specific things come in line. So many different guys contributed. I think the key for us was Josh Edmondson getting quality holds in the middle of the game that puts you in a position for that to happen. I'm very proud of the way our guys continued to battle throughout the game."
Chris Petrie led off the bottom of the seventh with a ball top the mound that Arkansas starter Charley Boyce threw beyond the bag in error allowing Petrie to advance to second. Pinch hitter David Cash then singled to right. The Gators had runners at the corners with none out. McMahon sent Bryson barber to the plate and he delivered with a single which scored Petrie for the Gators first run.
Arkansas skipper Dave Van Horn then opted to use his bullpen. Lefthander James Gilbert. Davis hit a fly ball to left to sacrifice a run in. Matt LaPorta followed with a single through the left side of the infield. It was LaPorta's first hit since his much anticipated return. Jeroloman then flew out to right field for Florida's second out. Avery Barnes kept the inning alive when he forced third baseman Blake Parker to hurry his throw and reached on error. Barber scored on the play and LaPorta moved to third.
"We knew that we had a lot of work to do," Barnes said. "You don't like to start off the game like that in any situation like that. Unfortunately, we did. The team just came together and we battled back and got on top and that's great."
Van Horn made another pitching change, inserting Davin Collis into the game to face the Gators most consistent hitter to-date Brian Leclerc. The outfielder greeted him with a single to right that scored LaPorta and probably would have scored Barnes had he not gotten the stop sign from third base coach Tim Parenton. The play went for not as Collis threw the next pitch into the dirt and catcher Brian Walker was unable to handle it as Barnes trotted home for the Gators fifth run. Austin Pride fouled out to end the inning.
Closer Darren O'Day was called upon to keep the Razorbacks scoreless and just as he did Friday night- he delivered. Willard singled with one out and moved to third on Jeroloman's errant throw to gun him down as he stole second. However, O'Day struck out Gentry and got Arnold to ground out to Davis, who just beat the runner to the bag for the third out of the inning.
Petrie led off the eighth with a single that fell into center field and moved to second as Cash ripped his second hit of the day. Barber then laid down a beautiful bunt to advance the runners. Davis stepped up and drilled a 2-1 offering over the left field fence. The three-run home run gave the Gators the one run cushion they so desperately worked toward.
O'Day returned to the hill and helped secure the series win for the Gators.
"I do enjoy it," O'Day said of the pressure. "When I was warming up, it didn't look like it was going to be that type of situation. We started scoring more runs and getting started getting more excited. It's just more fun for me to pitch in those situations."
The Gators have won eight of their last nine games. The will face Coach Pat McMahon's old school, Stetson this Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium.
Gavin Dickey was hit on his leg when he fouled a ball just below his knee. He was later plunked by Boyce on the spine and had to leave the game.
Brandon McArthur had a ball hit the opposite leg that was injured in Friday's warm-ups. He too had to leave the game.
Coach McMahon again punched the right buttons with his role players as Florida rallied for the win. Outstanding job of coaching.
O'Day should garner a lot of support for the conference relief award. He is tremendous this weekend.