FAYETTEVILLE – Sophomore DJ Baxendale threw the first complete game of his collegiate career, giving up three runs, while Jarrod McKinney broke a 3-3 deadlock with a solo home run in the eighth inning to lift Arkansas to a 4-3 win over No. 5 Florida in the series opener on Thursday night at Baum Stadium.
The Razorbacks improve to 31-14 overall and 11-11 in the Southeastern Conference, while Florida sees its seven-game winning streak come to an end, dropping to 35-11 overall and 17-5 in league play.
Arkansas posted its 19th comeback win of the season and improved to 12-6 in one-run contests. The Razorbacks also picked up their 13th win when tied or trailing after six innings.
The win was a milestone victory for Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn as he picked up his 350th win as the Razorback skipper. Van Horn’s record at Arkansas currently stands 350-193, while his career record is 935-433.
With the game tied at three in the bottom of the eighth inning, McKinney provided the heroics with a game-winning home run to lead off the bottom of the eighth. The homer was his second of the season.
Baxendale finished off the win in the top of the ninth, setting down Florida in order. Jeff Moyer grounded out to third to end the game and give Arkansas the win in the series opener.
Baxendale turned in the best start of his collegiate career, tossing his first career complete game and the first complete game for an Arkansas pitcher since Drew Smyly went the distance against Georgia on April 16, 2010. The sophomore from Jacksonville, Ark., gave up three runs, two earned, on seven hits, while tying a career high with seven strikeouts.
"He (DJ) did a great job," Van Horn said. "He was at 92 pitches after seven and he had a pretty good eighth. Then we took the lead and we had to give it to him and let him go back and finish it. He looked like a closer out there. He closed it up and we needed that complete game. It saved our bullpen a little bit against an outstanding team."
Hudson Randall took the loss to drop to 8-2 on the season. Randall gave up four runs on six hits with five strikeouts in seven innings.
Collin Kuhn had a team-high two hits, including his fourth home run of the season, a two-run shot that tied the game in the sixth inning. McKinney also homered, finishing the game 1-for-3. Dominic Ficociello added a RBI and a base hit. Kyle Robinson extended his hitting streak to seven games with a single in the seventh inning.
Preston Tucker hit his 10th homer of the season and had two hits to lead the Gators at the plate. Josh Adams and Daniel Pigott each contributed a pair of hits.
Each team plated a run in the top of the first. Bryson Smith was hit by a pitch with one out. Tucker laced a single past Tim Carver and into left field. A fielding error by Robinson in left field allowed Smith to score all the way from first for the game’s first run.
Arkansas quickly tied the game with a run in the bottom of the first. Kuhn hit a one-out triple to deep center field and came across the plate when Ficociello singled to center field.
The Gators regained the lead in the top of the fifth. A leadoff single by Adams to right started the inning and he then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Moyer. Pigott grounded a single up the middle, which plated Adams to put Florida back in front.
Florida extended the lead to two runs in the top of the sixth when Tucker hit the ninth pitch of his at bat over the right field wall for a leadoff home run. It looked like the Gators would extend the lead with two runners on and two outs in the inning when Moyer hit a sinking liner to right. However, McKinney raced in and made a great diving catch to keep Florida from extending the lead.
Arkansas rallied to tie the game for the second time with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth. Bo Bigham tripled to the alley in right-center to start the two-out rally. Kuhn blasted a 1-0 pitch into the Arkansas bullpen for his fourth home run of the season to tie the game at three.
The second game of the weekend series is set for Friday night at 6:35 p.m. A pair of sophomore left-handed pitchers are projected to get the start with Randall Fant (1-3, 2.92) taking the mound for Arkansas and Brian Johnson (7-1, 2.26) slated to get the starting nod for the Florida.