FAYETTEVILLE – Randall Fant and Barrett Astin held down the Florida offense, allowing just three runs and retiring the final 14 batters of the game, while Franco Broyles and James McCann each had two hits as Arkansas posted a series-clinching 5-3 win over Florida on Friday night in front of 9,032 fans at Baum Stadium.
"I think Randall (Fant) will tell you, he didn’t have his best stuff," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "He was up in the zone early in the game and we got out of a couple of jams, made a couple nice plays and it seemed like we were just kind of hanging around. I was a little worried when we left some runners out there. (Franco) Broyles got a big hit that about took the third baseman’s glove off. That ball was hit really hard and it gave us an insurance run and what can you say, (Barrett) Astin was outstanding."
The Razorbacks improve to 32-14 overall and 12-11 in Southeastern Conference play, while Florida is now 35-12 and 17-6 in league play. The series win marks Arkansas’ first over a top five team since the Razorbacks took two of three from No. 1 Vanderbilt on March 23-25, 2007. Florida suffers just its second series loss of the 2011 season.
For the second straight night, the Arkansas pitching staff was fantastic, holding the SEC’s number two offense to just three runs on seven hits. The duo of Fant and Astin combined to retire the last 14 batters they faced and didn’t allow a hit after the fifth inning.
Fant improved his record to 2-3, tossing his third straight quality start. Fant allowed three runs on seven hits with three strikeouts in six innings.
Astin came in and pitched the final three frames to earn the first save of his collegiate career. Astin retired all nine batters he faced, striking out four.
Florida starter Brian Johnson took the loss to drop to 7-2 on the season. Johnson gave up four runs, three earned, on five hits and struck out two during his four innings on the mound.
Broyles and McCann each had two hits to lead Arkansas at the plate. Making just his fifth start of the season, Broyles produced his first collegiate multi-hit game and drove in an insurance run with a rocket infield single in the seventh inning.
"I’m proud of him (Broyles)," Van Horn said. "Obviously, we’ve been watching him swing in practice and he keeps getting better. He can run and I like that. He did a great job at base running and turned that single down the line into a double. I know we didn’t score that inning but the speed made that possible."
McCann was a perfect 2-for-2 at the plate, recording his 12th multi-hit game of the year. The junior catcher also drew a walk and scored a run.
Dominic Ficociello and Kyle Robinson had two RBI each. Ficociello went 1-for-2 with a run scored, while Robinson was 1-for-4.
Mike Zunino was the only Gator to record multiple hits in the contest, finishing 2-for-4. Josh Adams and Austin Maddox each had a RBI.
Arkansas broke out on top with a run in the bottom of the first. Collin Kuhn reached on a throwing error by Maddox at third with one out and then moved to third on a bloop single to left field by McCann. Ficociello drove in his first run of the game with a sacrifice fly to right-center field.
Florida evened the game with a run in the top of the second. Daniel Pigott reached on an infield single with one out and an error allowed him to move up to second. After a strike out of Johnson, Maddox doubled to center field, scoring Pigott to tie the game.
The Gators added another run in the next inning. Zunino hit a one-out double into the left field corner and moved to third on an infield single by Preston Tucker. A fielder’s choice grounder to third by Adams scored Zunino to put Florida in front 2-1.
Arkansas put together a three-run rally in the bottom of the third to take a 4-2 lead. Tim Carver doubled down the left field line to lead off the inning. After the next two batters were retired, McCann walked to put runners at first and second. Ficociello tied the game at two with a single to right field, scoring Carver. A two-run double down the left field line off the bat of Robinson brought home McCann and Ficociello to put Arkansas in front.
Florida got a run back in the top of the fifth. Bryson Smith drew a leadoff walk and then moved to third on a single to right field by Nolan Fantana. Zunino grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, which scored Smith.
The Razorbacks added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh. Kuhn was hit by a pitch to start the rally and then a sacrifice bunt by McCann advanced him to second. A walk to Ficociello put runners at first and second with one out. A groundout by Robinson moved each runner up a base with two outs. After an intentional walk to Matt Reynolds, Broyles ripped a line drive to third that went off the glove of Maddox, allowing Kuhn to score the fifth Arkansas run of the contest.
The weekend series wraps up on Saturday with a 7:03 p.m. first pitch. Arkansas will start sophomore lefty Cade Lynch (4-2, 2.65), while Florida will counter with freshman right handed pitcher Karsten Whitson (6-0, 2.02). Saturday’s series finale will be televised nationally on ESPNU.