FAYETTEVILLE - The No. 4 University of Arkansas baseball team resumes Southeastern Conference play Friday for the beginning of a three-game series at seventh-ranked Florida. The weekend opener is set for a 5:30 p.m. (CT) start at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. Saturday's contest will be televised by Sun Sports with first pitch scheduled for noon. Game three of the series is also set to begin at noon.
Arkansas enters the weekend riding a 12-game winning streak, including eight consecutive victories in SEC play. The Razorbacks carry a 32-6 overall record and stand atop the standings in the conference with their 12-3 league mark. In the April 20 release of the RPI by the NCAA, Arkansas is No. 2; Florida is fifth. In their last outing, the Hogs defeated Oral Roberts, 9-5, with the help of four home runs in a midweek matchup at Baum Stadium.
The Razorbacks lead the all-time series with Florida, 21-19. The two teams met five times last season with Arkansas coming away with all five wins, including a pair of victories at the SEC Tournament. Arkansas as won six in a row in the series. The Gators hold an 11-7 advantage in games played in Gainesville. All but one of the 40 meetings have come since the Hogs joined the SEC in 1992. Arkansas and Florida first met in the 1979 NCAA East Regional in Tallahassee, a 9-1 win for the Razorbacks.
Zack Cox paces the club's offense with his SEC-leading .449 batting average and 70 hits. He has hit safely in 37 of Arkansas' 38 games this season and currently has a 13-game hitting streak in which he is hitting .527 (29-for-55). Collin Kuhn, the Hogs' leadoff man, leads the conference with 50 runs scored and is sixth in the league with his .392 batting average.
Behind a recent power surge, Brett Eibner is tied for the conference lead with 13 home runs. He hit two home runs against Oral Roberts to move his career total to 33, tied for the ninth most in program history. Andy Wilkins leads Arkansas and is second in the SEC with 52 RBI. Monk Kreder has hit safely in 20 consecutive games entering the Hogs' series at Florida. As a team, Arkansas carries a .334 team batting average, the second-highest figure in the conference.
Drew Smyly will get the ball to start Friday's game. The left-handed sophomore is 5-0 this season with a 1.99 ERA in nine appearances. In 49.2 innings of work, Smyly has 52 strikeouts and is holding opposing hitters to a .209 batting average. Eibner, game two's probable starter, is 3-2 and has a 3.38 ERA with 42 strikeouts and just eight walks in 45.1 innings. Sunday's starter is still to be determined. Arkansas is third in the SEC with its 3.65 team ERA.
Florida is 26-10 overall and has a 10-5 mark in the SEC, one game behind South Carolina in the Eastern Division. The Gators scored a season-high 18 runs in their last outing, a ten-run victory at South Florida. Austin Maddox leads his team with a .364 batting average, 12 home runs and 45 RBI. Florida's weekend rotation is scheduled to feature LHP Alex Panteliodis (6-1, 2.66 ERA) and RHP Hudson Randall (3-3, 4.12 ERA) with Sunday's starter to be named later.
Fans can tune in to the Razorback Sports Network from ISP for this weekend's radio broadcasts. Nathan Ealy will be in the booth for the call of the weekend series. Sun Sports is available to DirecTV (Ch. 653) and Dish Network (Ch. 422) customers.