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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Florida loses series, Razorbacks crowned SEC champs

No. 9 Florida steps on the gas early but burnt out in the end to lose 4-3

<p>Florida&#x27;s Hunter Barco pitches against Jacksonville on March 14. Barco was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday.</p>

Florida's Hunter Barco pitches against Jacksonville on March 14. Barco was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday.

A fly ball soared in the sky for what seemed like an eternity after Razorback Charlie Welch cracked a hit over the head of Florida center fielder Jud Fabian. 

Eventually, the ball thudded in the dirt as Welch touched second base, and Casey Opitz skipped across home plate. Chaos ensued as the No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks cleared the dugout and sprinted toward the outfield to celebrate the 4-3 win and a regular-season SEC crown.  

Florida first baseman Kendrick Calilao made the first indent on the game in the opening inning with a ground ball that scaled the third baseline and into left field. A costly throwing error from Razorback left fielder Braydon Webb allowed Calilao to advance to second and drove in base runners Kris Armstrong and Nathan Hickey.

Freshman Sterlin Thompson kept the frenzy going in the next frame with a solo home run to right field. His journey around the bases marks his third of the season and his first since the meeting with Jacksonville on April 20. The Gators led 3-0 in attempt to avoid a premature series loss.

Arkansas responded with a solo shot by center fielder Christian Franklin, his 12th of the year, before a sacrifice fly by junior Jalen Battles drove baserunner Robert Moore. The two RBIs put a dent in the Florida advantage and brought the score to 3-2. 

Southpaw Hunter Barco made the start on the mound for Florida and, despite two earned runs in the second, the freshman still finished the night strong after six innings tossed and eight batters retired at the plate. 

Barco sits comfortably at the end of his regular season with a 9-2 record, 84 strikeouts and a 4.06 ERA in 75.2 innings pitched for 2021.

Right-hander Jack Leftwich was sent to close things out in the seventh but instead gave up a solo home run to Razorback second baseman Robert Moore an inning later to deadlock the score.

Arkansas’ pitching crew extinguished the hot start in the third inning when right-handed Caleb Bolden and reliever Caden Monke laid down seven strikeouts each. Closer Kevin Kopps entered the game in the ninth and struck out the side to give the Razorbacks the victory and earn his 10th victory of the season.

The third game of the series and final meeting of the regular season is set to begin after the pre-game ceremonies at 2 p.m. on Saturday, and Franco Aleman will take the mound for Florida. Watch the action live on SEC Network+ and follow live stats on FloridaGators.com.

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

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