FAYETTEVILLE – Redshirt freshman Drew Smyly threw six innings and the Arkansas bats did just enough to lead the No. 18 Arkansas baseball team to a three-game sweep of Southeastern Conference opponent Florida at Baum Stadium on Sunday afternoon, 4-2.
The Razorbacks (12-3, 3-0 SEC) assured themselves of at least a tie in the SEC Western Division with the victory while Florida (9-7, 0-3 SEC) drops its sixth consecutive game at Baum Stadium and fourth straight to the Razorbacks including last season.
“Sunday games are always the tough ones,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “We knew we were going to be in for a battle today. We were playing a highly motivated team who was willing to do anything to get a win today. I thought the pitching staff handled the game well and we were able to manufacture some runs and do what we had to do to get the win.”
A 2-2 game in the eighth inning, the Razorbacks would pick up their margin of victory in their last at bat thanks to two Florida errors and no hits. A leadoff walk to Ben Tschepikow was followed by a stolen base and a throwing error by the Gator catcher which allowed Tschepikow to move to third. The next play left many in the stands scratching their heads and eventually got Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan ejected for arguing.
A 3-2 curveball in the dirt was waved at by McKinney but the freshman from Hughes Springs, Texas, took off running to first on the play. The pitch bounced off the dirt, then Florida catcher Buddy Munroe and off McKinney’s leg as he ran to first. The wild pitch allowed Tschepikow to score from third with the eventual game-winning run. Arkansas would add another run for good measure on a Florida error when the Razorbacks attempted a double steal and Munroe threw the ball over the third baseman’s head into left field.
“McKinney had no idea where the ball was,” Van Horn said. “He knew he swung at a ball that was out front and it got in the dirt so he took off. The ball can hit the runner as long as he doesn’t go out of his way to get hit.”
On the mound, Arkansas was superb once again as Smyly tossed six innings and allowed just two runs. He scattered seven hits and struck out four while not surrendering a single walk. Smyly’s outing was a career long for the Little Rock, Ark., native and his four strikeouts were one off his career best. The Razorback pitching staff as a whole was brilliant in the series as it allowed just 10 runs on 22 hits. The Hogs walked nine Florida hitters in the three-game set, but struck out 30.
Tschepikow continued to swing a hot bat for the Razorbacks as he extended his hitting streak to 10 games with two hits in three at bats and a walk. Since his streak started against Western Illinois on March 1, the Fayetteville, Ark., native is batting .450 with 18 hits, 11 runs and 14 RBI.
The Razorbacks tallied their first run in the bottom of the first inning when Collin Kuhn led off with a triple to left-center field and scored on a single by senior Scott Lyons. The Hogs second run of the contest came in the sixth on a ground out by pinch hitter Chase Leavitt, scoring Lyons who had reached on an error.
Arkansas’ opening series sweep of the Gators is the first time since 1998 that it has begun the SEC schedule with a sweep and the first since 1993 that the sweep consisted of three games. The Hogs are one game short of matching their best conference start in school history.
The Razorbacks’ next challenge comes from Big 12 opponent Nebraska at Baum Stadium on Tuesday night. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.