HOOVER, Ala. - The No. 12 University of Arkansas baseball team dropped a 5-4 decision to No. 4 Florida Thursday afternoon at the 2010 SEC Tournament at Regions Park. The loss marked the Razorbacks' second setback of the double-elimination event. Collin Kuhn had a two-run triple to pace Arkansas' offensive output and Drew Smyly tossed five relief innings against the top-seeded Gators.
"First off, hats off to Florida because they made some really great plays," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "Alex (Panteliodis) pitched very well for them and got them off to a good start. They got three runs with two outs; I think four of the five runs were with two outs. I am hoping our big hits come next weekend because we didn't have any this weekend. We got one and it was given to us a little bit by the sun."
Florida (41-14) plated the first run of the ballgame with a score in the bottom of the first. Nolan Fontana led off the inning by drawing a walk and moved around to third base on consecutive groundouts. Austin Maddox drove in the run with a two-out single to right field to give his team an early 1-0 advantage.
A pair of run-scoring singles by the Gators in the bottom of the third pushed their lead to three runs. As it was in the first inning, the damage was done with two outs. After a single by Fontana and a walk to Matt den Dekker, Arkansas starter Mike Bolsinger struck out Preston Tucker for the second out but gave up back-to-back RBI base hits to Maddox and Brian Johnson.
Travis Sample posted Arkansas' first hit of the day with a two-out double to left center in the top of the fourth. Florida starter Alex Panteliodis retired the first 11 Razorback hitters prior to Sample's extra-base knock. Monk Kreder followed with an RBI single to drive in the club's first run of the game. Kreder is now riding a seven-game hitting streak.
The Hogs brought Smyly out of the bullpen to start the fourth. The left-handed sophomore retired the first two hitter he faced before giving up consecutive singles to Cody Dent and Fontana. With runners on the corners and two outs, Smyly threw over to first to catch Fontana in a rundown but Dent scored from third before the tag was applied and Florida led, 4-1.
Arkansas (40-18) pulled to within one on the scoreboard with two runs in the top of the fifth. Tom Hauskey led off the inning with a double but was erased as the lead runner on a ground ball but Tim Carver reached on a fielder's choice. James McCann followed by drawing a walk to give the Razorbacks runners on first and second. Kuhn, the Hogs' next hitter, lofted a shot to right field that the defender lost in the sun as the ball found the ground for a two-run triple.
The Gators scored an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth to stretch its lead to 5-3. With one out in the inning, Tucker skied a pop ball that dropped on the infield after a collision between Smyly and Andy Wilkins; Wilkins was shaken up on the play and was replaced by Matt Reynolds at third base. After a fielding error at second and a walk to Johnson, the bases were loaded for Florida. Tucker came in to score on a grounder back to the mound.
Down to the Hogs' final three outs of the SEC Tournament, Reynolds led off the top of the ninth with a single to right field. Brett Eibner made his first appearance of the week as a pinch runner for Reynolds; he moved up to second on a wild pitch by Florida closer Kevin Chapman. Derrick Bleeker moved the runner to third with a ground ball and after Carver was plunked by a pitch, Arkansas had runners on the corners with one out.
James McCann lined a 1-1 offering from Chapman toward the gap in right center, but Jonathan Pigott laid out to make the diving catch. On contact, Carver took off from first and couldn't make it back to the bag before the throw doubled him off. Eibner tagged from third and scored the Hogs' fourth run before the final out was registered.
"I think we fought and gave ourselves a chance to come back and win it against (Kevin) Chapman," Van Horn said. "That was a tremendous play by the right fielder. Hopefully, we will get healed up and play better next weekend."
Arkansas now awaits its postseason fate as the field for the 2010 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship is announced Monday, May 31 at 11:30 a.m. (CT) on ESPN. Regional hosts will be announced Sunday, May 30 at approximately 2:30 p.m. on www.ncaa.com/cws and the BottomLine of the ESPN networks.