Florida baseball is at rock bottom.
The Gators (19-11, 3-7) mustered just two hits and two walks Thursday night in a deflating 8-0 loss to the No. 2 Arkansas Razorbacks (23-5, 8-2).
Florida has crashed and burned in SEC play, and the schedule only gets more difficult.
“We just gotta get over that hump and play our best baseball at the end of the year,” junior catcher BT Riopelle said. “It’s on all of us.”
Florida pitching hit as many Razorbacks as the Gators had batters reach base. It was a putrid performance from an offense that desperately needed a breakout.
“We didn’t see anything that we weren’t expecting,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We didn’t do anything offensively tonight.”
The game got off to a tremendously slow start, as both pitchers faced the minimum the first time through the order.
The only base runner through three innings was Florida second baseman Colby Halter, who singled to lead off the game for the Gators. He was quickly erased trying to steal second as he stumbled on the attempt.
The first taste of action came in the Arkansas half of the fourth inning, when sophomore Hunter Barco ran into some trouble. He began the inning by plunking Arkansas third baseman Cayden Wallace, then let up a one-out walk to second baseman Robert Moore.
With one out, he struck out right fielder Chris Lanzilli swinging, but both runners advanced as Arkansas put on the double steal.
With two outs and a runner on second and third, the small crowd at Florida Ballpark came to its feet knowing it was a big spot.
They were quickly silenced as Arkansas catcher Michael Turner looped a little flare that snuck over Barco’s head and landed between him and shortstop Josh Rivera to score the game’s first run.
However, the crowd began to make noise again as the umpires discussed a possible interference. Moore ran into third baseman Deric Fabian between second and third and it caught the attention of head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. The umpires discussed and ruled nothing was wrong with the play, allowing the run to stand.
Barco walked shortstop Jalen Battles with two outs, but got designated hitter Bady Slavens to ground out to keep the damage at just a run.
After throwing 30 total pitches in the first three frames, Barco needed 36 and had to face nearly the entire lineup to escape the fourth. He had also allowed just one hit — that traveled about 75 feet — and found himself down 1-0.
Arkansas would add on again in the fifth as Barco continued to labor in the middle part of the game. He hit a second batter of the game, this time first baseman Peyton Stovall, then gave up an RBI single to Wallace that doubled the lead.
O’Sullivan said the hit-by-pitches were killer as both of them came around to score. He also mentioned that Barco dealt with strep throat during the week, and it may have contributed to him fizzling out following the great start.
Barco failed to get through the sixth after giving up a leadoff home run to right field Chris Lanzilli, followed by a single to Turner and another walk to Battles.
“He kept us in the ball game,” Riopelle said. “We just didn’t score enough runs to keep him out there.”
Righty Tyler Nesbitt entered and did tremendous work to keep the deficit at just three for the Gators. He struck out two batters and forced a groundout to get out of the inning.
“We tried to get some momentum,” O’Sullivan said about Nesbitt’s good performance. “Then the next inning we went down 1-2-3.”
Arkansas managed to score in each of the middle innings, but the Gators had no answer. They had just one base runner reach from the fourth through the seventh, and went down in order in six of the first seven innings.
The Gators got their first scoring chance in the eighth, when first baseman Kendrick Calilao singled and shortstop Josh Rivera walked. Nothing came from it as pinch hitter Kris Armstrong popped out and Fabian flew out.
In the eighth inning the Gators faced Arkansas right-hander Zebulon Vermillion, which is about the most notable thing from Thursday’s game.
The series continues Friday at 6:30 p.m. with right-hander Brandon Sproat on the mound for Florida and southpaw Hagen Smith for the Razorbacks. The matchup will be broadcast on SEC Network+.
Contact Ethan Budowsky at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ethanbudowsky.