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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Florida gets swept by Arkansas days before SEC tournament

The No. 9 Gators can’t handle the elite Razorbacks offense to close series.

Florida pitcher Franco Aleman on the mound against Jacksonville March 14. Aleman struck out a career-high eight batters Saturday but Florida was swept by No. 1 Arkansas.
Florida pitcher Franco Aleman on the mound against Jacksonville March 14. Aleman struck out a career-high eight batters Saturday but Florida was swept by No. 1 Arkansas.

Just three days before the SEC Championships will begin in Hoover, Alabama, the Florida baseball team found itself tumbling into a skid.

Sunbeams beat down the afternoon skies of George Cole Field on Saturday for the final regular-season battle of the Gators’ season. The score stood at a stalemate in the seventh inning, but a monstrous seven-run rally set up a 9-3 win and a sweep for the No. 1 Razorbacks.

The No. 9 Florida Gators are now 14-21 against Arkansas under head coach Kevin O’Sullivan and 4-8 on the road. They ended their regular season with four consecutive losses.

Razorbacks first baseman Brady Slavens put up huge numbers at the plate. He powered a two-run homer to left field in the fourth inning for the opening runs of the game. He slammed another home run in the seventh inning, a three-run bomb to right-center.

Slavens wasn’t the only Razorback to create problems for Florida in the seventh inning. Shortstop Jalen Battles struck his only hit of the day with an RBI single toward right field and teammate Charlie Welch tallied two additional RBIs with a rocket shot to left field.

Right-handed pitcher Franco Aleman started his day with four strikeouts through three innings, but Slavens’ first home run halted his momentum. He recovered with two consecutive scoreless innings before the beginning of the seventh-inning carnage chased him from the mound.  

When head coach Kevin O’Sullivan paid a visit to the mound in the seventh inning to put an end to a day well done by Aleman. The junior finished his day with a career-high eight strikeouts in 6.1 innings with seven hits and six earned runs. He was credited with his fourth loss of the season.

That wouldn’t be the last substitution on the hill for Florida. Coach Sully made three calls to his bullpen Saturday, two of which came in the seventh to left-handed Jordan Butler and Brandon Sproat during the Razorback rally.

Florida left fielder Jacob Young cut the deficit to a single run in the fifth inning with a groundout RBI to third base, his 36th of the season, but the seven-run firework show two innings later rendered his help inadequate. He also tripled for the third time this season in the third inning.

Florida mustered an additional run in the ninth to lessen the blow thanks to a line-drive double from freshman Sterlin Thompson. First baseman Kendrick Calilao sprinted his way home from second to score his 20th run of the year, but the rally fell six runs short.

Florida will enter the postseason with a 35-19 record and a four-game losing streak which erased all momentum. The SEC Championship tournament in Hoover, Alabama begins on Tuesday.

Contact Jesse Richardson at jrichardson@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352

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