HOOVER, Ala. – Mike Bolsinger threw four-plus innings of relief to lead the No. 20 Arkansas Razorback baseball team to an 8-5 victory over the No. 9 Florida Gators in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Championship Tournament on Wednesday morning in Hoover, Ala.
The No. 7 seeded Razorbacks (32-20) used a five-run fourth inning to dispatch the No. 2 seeded Gators (38-19) for the fourth time this season and advance in the winners bracket of the conference tournament.
“You have to give credit to the players,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “They made a couple of big plays and got some big two-out hits.”
Arkansas capitalized on four Florida errors to score seven unearned runs and pick up its seventh first round Southeastern Conference Tournament win in school history.
The fateful fourth inning began with a one-out single by Zack Cox through the right side. Cox would move to second when a ball off the end of the bat by Brett Eibner to the first baseman was thrown wide to second allowing both runners to reach base safely. A strike out later and Tom Hauskey delivered a pinch hit single up the middle to score Cox and make it a 2-2 game. Chase Leavitt followed with a single to left scoring Eibner. Ben Tschepikow would walk to load the bases and Travis Sample came through with another two-out hit, his, a double down the left-field line which scored all three base runners and give the Hogs a 6-2 lead.
Arkansas starter Dallas Keuchel pitched into the fourth inning and got two outs before handing the ball to Bolsinger and after a rocky start, the right-hander from McKinney, Texas, settled in to allow just one hit and two walks while striking out five. Arkansas and Florida combined for 11 runs over the opening four innings, but the bullpens for each squad settled the nerves and delivered zeros on the scoreboard through the seventh.
The Razorbacks caught a tough break in the top of the first inning when a potential RBI single by Andy Wilkins resulted in a dead ball and no run. With one out in the inning, Tschepikow laced a double over the head of the left fielder. Two batters later with two outs Wilkins hit a hard shot up the middle that struck the umpire before it left the infield resulting in the dead ball. Tschepikow, who was running with two outs and on the crack of the bat would have been able to score on the play but because of the dead ball, was sent back to second base.
Arkansas would get the critical first run of the game in the top of the second as Bo Bigham grounded out allowing Zack Cox to score from third base. Cox led off the inning with a double to the left-center field gap and moved to third on a throwing error by the third baseman. On the play Brett Eibner hit a line drive to third and as he tried to throw out Cox at second the ball sailed into right field allowing Cox to advance.
Florida took the lead in the bottom of the third thanks to back-to-back walks to lead off the inning. With runners on first and second, Florida used a sacrifice bunt to place runners in scoring position and the next batter hit a sharp ground ball to second which Bigham Made a diving stab at, but could not make the transfer to throw the runner out. One run scored on the play, but the error proved costly on the next batter as another ground ball scored a second runner in the inning to make it a 2-1 game in favor of the Gators.
After Arkansas took its 6-2 lead, Florida came back with three runs in the bottom of the fourth to make it 6-5 but Florida was not able to score any more off Bolsinger (4-4) or closer Stephen Richards (9 saves). The Razorbacks however were able to score single runs in the eighth and ninth innings on a RBI single by Leavitt and a solo home run by Cox.
Arkansas touched up Florida pitching for 11 hits on the afternoon with Cox leading the way with three. Leavitt and Tschepikow proved to be a lethal 1-2 punch as they combined for four hits. Sample, Wilkins, Bigham and Hauskey completed the Razorback attack. The Razorback pitching allowed just four Florida hits, but walked nine batters while striking out nine others.
The Razorbacks face the winner of the No. 3 Ole Miss/No. 6 Georgia contest at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 21. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.