GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The No. 4 University of Arkansas baseball team extended its winning streak to 13 games with an 8-3 win over seventh-ranked Florida Friday night at McKethan Stadium. The Razorbacks got home runs from Travis Sample, Bo Bigham and Collin Kuhn to reel off their ninth consecutive victory in Southeastern Conference play. Drew Smyly struck out 10 hitters in seven innings to pick up his sixth win of the season. Arkansas’ 13-game winning streak is the longest for the program since the 1996 club won 18 in a row to start the season.
Florida (26-11, 10-6 SEC) manufactured the game’s first run in the bottom of the first. Nolan Fontana led off the inning with a double to right field. He was moved to third with a sacrifice bunt and eventually came in to score on an RBI groundout by Preston Tucker. Later in the inning, the home team had two runners on but James McCann got the Razorbacks out of trouble when he threw down to first to pick off Daniel Pigott for the third out.
The Razorbacks tied the score with one swing of the bat by Sample. The Dallas, Texas, native lofted the first offering from Florida starter Alex Panteliodis over the fence in right field to pull Arkansas even on the scoreboard. The solo shot was the second home run of the season, and second in as many games.
Smyly kept the Gators off the scoreboard again until the fifth inning. Mike Zunino singled with one out but was erased by Kuhn trying to slide into third on a base hit to right by Fontana. Jonathan Pigott followed with a shot up the middle and, after a strike-three wild pitch to Tucker, the bases were loaded with two outs. Smyly balked to allow Florida’s second run to cross the plate. The Gators led, 2-1, after five.
Bigham erased the deficit and put the Hogs on top with a two-run blast in the top of the sixth. Kuhn opened the frame with a lead-off walk. Bigham provided the go-ahead hit with his second home run of the season and Arkansas took the 3-2 advantage.
Sample collected his second extra-base hit of the game with a double to lead off the seventh for Razorbacks. Tim Carver followed with a bunt single and Sample moved over to third. After McCann popped out, Kuhn delivered a three-run dinger into the bleachers in left field. The shot is his ninth home run of the season, tripling his output of three from a year ago.
Zunino homered to left center to lead off the seventh inning. Smyly (6-0) shook off the long ball and retired the next three hitters in order in his final inning of work. The left-handed sophomore allowed eight hits to the Gators but walked just one in addition to his strikeout total. Smyly has worked at least seven innings in his past four outings.
Leading 6-3, Arkansas tacked on two runs in the top of the eighth to give the game its final tally. Wilkins drew a walk to lead off the inning and Monk Kreder was hit by a pitch. A sacrifice bunt by Matt Vinson, in for Sample, advanced the runners and Wilkins came in to score on an RBI groundout by Carver. McCann knocked in Kreder, the Hogs’ final run, with a double down the line in left field.
Mike Bolsinger came in out of the bullpen to work the final two innings of Friday’s game. He faced the minimum and struck out four Gator hitters; collectively, he and Smyly posted 14 strikeouts.
The Razorbacks have won seven consecutive games against Florida. In the win, Zack Cox pushed his hitting streak to 14 games and tallied his 10th straight contest with at least two hits.
Game two of the weekend series is set for a noon first pitch Saturday at McKethan Stadium. Saturday’s contest will be televised by Sun Sports which is available to DirecTV (Ch. 653) and Dish Network (Ch. 422) customers in Northwest Arkansas. Brett Eibner (3-2, 3.38 ERA) will get the start for the Razorbacks and Florida will counter with RHP Hudson Randall (3-3, 4.12 ERA).