At the end of the seventh inning, Arkansas starter Blaine Knight was the first to meet his teammates at the mouth of the Razorbacks’ dugout. After being removed from the game just one out away from completing seven innings of work, his defense got the job done, as it ended Florida’s one-run inning and shut the door on a potential Gators comeback.
The Razorbacks’ bullpen held UF’s lineup in check for the rest of the contest, as No. 4 Arkansas (17-5, 4-0 SEC) defeated the No. 2 Gators 6-3 on Friday night at McKethan Stadium.
“We hung in there. We were one hitter away from getting the tying run to the plate at the end,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “But credit Arkansas. They played really well tonight.”
The anticipation behind the contest was high. Florida pitcher Brady Singer (now 5-1 this season) and Knight — two top prospects heading into this year’s MLB Draft — were set to duel in Gainesville.
The Razorback bested the Gator.
Knight was impressive through 6.2 innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits. He was able to locate his fastball well, maneuvering his pitches all around the strike zone. But what really stood out was Knight’s offspeed deliveries.
The Razorbacks righty fooled multiple Gators with a nasty slider and a hard-to-hit changeups, striking out 10 Gator hitters in his 6.2 innings of work.
“Credit him,” shortstop Deacon Liput said. “He hit his locations.”
The same couldn’t be said for Singer.
Florida’s Friday night ace was met by a stacked Arkansas offense. As a team, the Razorbacks were hitting .321 on the season prior to their matchup against Singer.
It showed on Friday.
The offensive barrage on Singer began in the second, when the Razorbacks tattooed Florida’s junior ace with three runs on three hits in the frame. By the end of his night, Singer had given up six runs on seven hits in seven innings of work, continuing his struggles against the Razorbacks.
After Friday night’s contest, Singer is 0-2 against Arkansas, ceasing 14 hits and 14 earned runs in two career starts against the conference foe.
“They put runs on the board,” Singer said. “They beat us. I don’t think there’s much else to say.”
And the Gators’ offense couldn’t save Singer from the peril.
After a five-game stretch of hitting over .300, Florida’s lineup kneeled to the darkness of Knight. The top third of UF’s order went a combined 1-for-13 during the game and struck out six times against Arkansas’ starter.
“The bottom line is we just have to do a little bit better offensively,” O’Sullivan said. “We got beat by a really good pitcher tonight. It’s part of it and that happens.”
In a game that was handled by Arkansas from the start, a few Florida players found some success against the Razorbacks’ rotation.
Jonathan India extended his hitting streak to nine games, going 2-for-3 in the cleanup spot. Liput continued his success in the batter’s box as well. After going 4-for-4 against Jacksonville on Wednesday, the junior gathered hits in both of his early at-bats, including a two-run homer off Knight in the fourth, finishing 2-for-4 on the evening.
With Friday’s loss, the Gators (19-5, 2-2 SEC) will send Jackson Kowar to the hill for Saturday afternoon’s game against the Razorbacks.
“We’ve been through this plenty of times,” O’Sullivan said. “This is Game 4 of a 30-game SEC series. So, I would assume he’ll come out and expect to win tomorrow.”
Follow Justin Ahlum on Twitter @justinn_case1, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UF starting pitcher Brady Singer picked up the win in his final home game as a Gator. The junior was drafted 18th overall by the Kansas City Royals in the MLB Draft on Monday.