FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas enters the home stretch of the Southeastern Conference schedule this weekend as the Razorbacks host No. 5 Florida in a crucial three-game series at Baum Stadium. Game times are 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, 6:35 p.m. on Friday and 7 p.m. on Saturday.Two of the games in the series will be nationally televised as ESPNU will carry Thursday and Saturday’s game. Friday’s contest will be available on the RazorVision portal at ArkansasRazorbacks.com. Fans can listen to all three games on the Razorback Baseball Radio Network from IMG College. Also, the first two games of the series will be available on Sirius XM College SportsNation, which is channel 91 on Sirius and XM satellite radio. Three-time Arkansas Sportscaster of the Year Chuck Barrett (play-by-play) and former Arkansas Sports Information Director Rick Schaeffer (analyst) will call the action.
Single-game tickets for both midweek contests¬ are still available. Tickets are $10 for reserved seats and can be purchased by calling 1-800-982-HOGS (4647), by visiting the online ticket center at ArkansasRazorbacks.com and on gameday at Baum Stadium, while supplies last.
Thursday’s game on ESPNU is part of the inaugural Thursday Night SEC Baseball Game of the Week and will cap an evening full of Arkansas baseball programming on ESPNU. The night opens at 5:30 p.m. with the debut of ESPNU All Access: Arkansas Baseball, a 30-minute program that takes a behind-the-scenes look at the Razorback baseball program. Following the All Access special, College Baseball Live, a 30-minute pregame show will get fans ready for the series opener between Arkansas and Florida and lead up to first pitch between the Razorbacks and Gators.
Saturday’s game will also be shown on ESPNU and will be a Campus Connection game. Nine University of Arkansas students will be integrated into the broadcast, learning alongside the ESPNU professional staff. All nine students are part of the RazorVision Academy, a cooperative intern and instructional program for UA students in the Lemke School of Journalism with the Razorback athletic department.The Razorbacks, ranked as high as 16th in the country, enter the weekend with a 30-14 overall record and a 10-11 record in conference game. With nine games left in the league slate, Arkansas is tied for first place with Alabama in a jumbled Western Division. In its most recent conference action, the Razorbacks dropped two of three games at Georgia. Arkansas split a pair of games in midweek action against Southeast Missouri State. Dominic Ficociello, James McCann and Kyle Robinson each hit .500 in the two games against the Redhawks.Ficociello leads Arkansas with a .346 batting average on the season with four homers and a team-high 38 RBI. McCann is hitting .322 on the year and has six homers and 27 RBI. Robinson is batting .313 with a team-high seven homers and 35 RBI. The Razorbacks will send sophomore right hander DJ Baxendale to the mound in Thursday’s opener. Baxendale is 6-1 with a 1.50 ERA on the year. Sophomore southpaw Randall Fant is the projected starter on Friday. Fant is 1-3 with a 2.92 ERA. Arkansas has not announced a starter for Saturday’s series wrap-up.
Freshman Nolan Sanburn has been the most called upon reliever for the Razorbacks, appearing in 20 games. Sanburn has saved a team-high eight games and is 2-3 with a 3.00 ERA in his rookie season. Fellow freshman Barrett Astin has pitched in 19 games, 17 out of the bullpen, and is 4-1 with a 3.00 ERA. Redshirt sophomore Trent Daniel is 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA in 18 relief outings this season.Ranked in the top five in all four major college baseball polls, Florida brings a 35-10 overall record and a 17-4 mark in SEC play into this weekend’s series. The Gators are currently tied for first in the Eastern Division with South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Florida is currently on a seven-game winning streak and has won its last seven conference matchups. Last weekend, the Gators swept a three-game series from Ole Miss in Gainesville. As a team, Florida is hitting .318, while the pitching staff has a team ERA of 2.51. The Gators rank second in the SEC in team hitting and ERA.
Mike Zunino leads Florida in all three triple crown categories, currently hitting .390 with 10 homers and 46 RBI. Josh Adams is batting .363 with four round trippers and 32 RBI, while Preston Tucker is hitting .331 with nine homers and 42 RBI. Brian Johnson (.331, 3 HR, 19 RBI), Daniel Pigott (.321, 2 HR, 27 RBI) and Nolan Fontana (.308, 1 HR, 30 RBI) are also hitting over .300 this season.
Florida boasts one of the best weekend rotations in college baseball. On Thursday night, sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall will start on the mound. Randall is 8-1 with a 1.75 ERA in 11 starts and has two complete games on the season. Johnson, a sophomore lefty, is slated to start Friday’s game. Johnson is 7-1 with a 2.26 ERA in 11 starts. On Saturday, freshman right hander Karsten Whitson will start for the Gators. Whitson is 6-0 with a 2.02 ERA.
Nick Maronde has appeared in a team-leading 23 games and has two saves on the season with a 2.10 ERA. Anthony DeSclafani has saved a team-leading three games and is 4-2 with a 4.08 ERA in 20 outings. Steven Rodriguez has pitched in 19 games and has a 2-1 record with a 1.54 ERA.
Arkansas and Florida have met 44 times previously with each team winning 22 times. The Razorbacks hold an 11-7 edge when the two teams meet in Fayetteville. Arkansas has won three of the last four regular season series against the Gators. The two teams met four times in 2010, with Florida winning two of three in the regular season series in Gainesville and also claiming a victory in the SEC Tournament.