FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – No. 9 Florida (35-19, 17-13 SEC) dropped the third and final game at No. 1 Arkansas (42-10, 22-8 SEC) on Saturday afternoon by a 9-3 tally. With the series finale marking the end of the 2021 regular season, the Gators received the No. 6 seed in the SEC Tournament and will take on 11th-seeded Kentucky in Hoover, Ala. on Tuesday, May 25 at 10:30 a.m. ET.
Game three started off much differently than the first two games in the series, as both pitching staffs churned out three consecutive scoreless frames to open up play. Florida starter Franco Aleman was particularly good in the early stages, striking out four Razorbacks through three while allowing just one baserunner.
Arkansas opened the scoring in the bottom of the fourth, using a two-run home run off the bat of Brady Slavens to jump out to a 2-0 lead. The Gators quickly responded for a run of their own in the top of the fifth, as Sterlin Thompson and Cory Acton collected singles and Thompson later came in to score on an RBI groundout by Jacob Young.
Continuing to battle back, the Gators tied up the game in the sixth inning. Jud Fabian led off the frame by reaching on a hit-by-pitch, then advanced to third on a Kris Armstrong single to right. Fabian then scored the game-tying run as Kendrick Calilao grounded into a six-to-three double play.
Despite giving up two runs in the fourth, Aleman settled in to provide scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth. In the process, Aleman notched a new career high with eight strikeouts, topping his previous best of five in one game.
The Razorback bats came alive in the bottom of the seventh, rallying for a seven-run inning highlighted by a three-run home run by Slavens. Charlie Welch also contributed a two-run double in the frame.
Florida tacked on one final run in the top of the ninth, as Thompson doubled in Calilao to bring the score to it’s final tally of 9-3.
Aleman was saddled with the loss, pitching a career-high 6.1 innings and allowing six earned runs on seven hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.
Arkansas starter Jaxon Wiggins pitched just three innings, allowing two hits and striking out two. Reliever Zebulon Vermillion earned the win, tossing one scoreless inning with two strikeouts.
* Aleman struck out a career-high eight batters in the game, topping his previous career best of five strikeouts. His 6.1 innings pitched marked a career high as well.
* Calilao went 2-for-3 with one walk at the plate, representing his sixth multi-hit performance in Florida’s last nine games.
* Florida falls to 7-12 on the road this season.
FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN
On how the game got away from the Gators late…
“Credit Arkansas. They played really well this weekend. Kind of fell apart there in the bottom of the seventh and they had the big inning with seven runs. Bottom line is they just outplayed us this weekend. They outpitched us; they outhit us. Credit them.”
On Aleman’s performance on the mound…
“He was cruising. He was throwing the ball really well. That’s the best he’s thrown all year long. We were a little bit light in the bullpen obviously, because we used Jack [Leftwich] yesterday… We were a little bit shorthanded there, and Christian [Scott] because we needed somebody at the end of the game. It was just one of those things where they hit some balls through the infield against Franco and then we went to the bullpen there in the seventh and it just didn’t work out.”
On turning the page to the SEC Tournament and getting ready for postseason play…
“Yeah, we talked about that at the end of the game. Bottom line is as difficult as this weekend was, we have to move on. The postseason starts Tuesday and we’ll have a good practice on Monday and get ready to play on Tuesday.”
Florida’s next game will come in the form of the 2021 SEC Baseball Tournament, scheduled for May 25-30 in Hoover, Ala. The Gators will take on Kentucky on Tuesday, May 25 with first pitch scheduled for 9:30 a.m. CT/10:30 a.m. ET.