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Arkansas sweeps Florida, ties record for most SEC wins

by Matt Jones, Seth Campbell | May 22, 2021 at 12:57 p.m.
Arkansas catcher Dylan Leach celebrates during Arkansas' 9-3 win over Florida on Saturday, May 22, 2021 at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville. Picture courtesy Walt Beazley and the SEC Media Pool.

FAYETTEVILLE — The SEC champions hosted an afterparty Saturday at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Hours after winning the title with a late-night walk off, top-ranked Arkansas finished a three-game sweep of No. 8 Florida with a 9-3 victory in front of a sold-out crowd of 11,084.

The Razorbacks (42-10, 22-8 SEC) tied the program record for most SEC wins in a single season. Arkansas’ 1999 SEC championship team also finished with a 22-8 conference record.

Arkansas won despite starting freshman backups at catcher (Dylan Leach) and left field (Ethan Bates).

"I'm just really excited how it went today," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We gave some starters some rest and it worked out."

The Razorbacks broke the game open with a seven-run seventh inning that included a two-run double by Friday’s hero, Charlie Welch, off the left-field wall, and a three-run home run by Brady Slavens to right-center field.

Slavens hit two homers Saturday to give him 13 for the season. That tied Robert Moore for the team lead.

"I was just trying to hit the ball hard, honestly," said Slavens, whose 5 RBI Saturday increased his team lead to 59. "Having struggled the last two games I was just trying to drive in some runs and put the ball in play hard."

Welch’s double came in a pinch-hit role, just like his game-winning double in the ninth inning Friday and his single in the fifth inning Thursday. Welch is 8 for 12 in pinch-hit situations this year, including 6 for 9 in SEC play.

Welch said he had chills as he was given a thunderous ovation when he came to the plate.

"It was unreal seeing every person in the stadium screaming at the top of their lungs, having my teammates there going crazy," Welch said on the Razorback Sports Network postgame show. "I mean words can’t describe it. It was easily the best moment of my baseball career to this point."

Cullen Smith, Ethan Bates and Jalen Battles got the seventh-inning rally started with three consecutive singles. Battles’ RBI hit scored Smith to give Arkansas a 3-2 lead and Bates scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-2 after Welch came to the plate with the bases loaded.

Four of the runs in the seventh were charged to Florida starter Franco Aleman, who allowed 6 runs on 7 hits, walked 1 and struck out 8.

The other three runs in the inning were charged to reliever Jordan Butler.

Arkansas shut down the Gators’ lineup for the third consecutive day with a staff effort. Seven Razorbacks pitched and they combined to allow three runs on eight hits.

Jaxon Wiggins’ first SEC start lasted three innings. The freshman right hander retired nine of 11 batters he faced.

Kole Ramage, Zebulon Vermillion and Ryan Costeiu all pitched one scoreless inning. The Gators scored one run against Connor Noland in the fifth inning, Heston Tole in the sixth and Zack Morris in the ninth.

"I thought Vermillion was really good. Ryan’s stuff was really good. I thought Noland’s stuff was good; he just missed a little bit. He probably threw too many pitches as far as a couple, three full counts," Van Horn said. "But I have confidence in those guys, so we’ll definitely use those guys if needed this week."

Jacob Young’s RBI ground out scored Sterlin Thompson to pull Florida within 2-1 in the fifth. Kendrick Calilao grounded into a 6-4-3 double play that scored Jud Fabian to tie the game in the sixth.

Morris came within one strike of pitching a scoreless ninth, but Thompson’s RBI double scored Calilao. Morris struck out Josh Rivera to end the game.

Arkansas’ pitchers combined for 11 strikeouts Saturday. The Razorbacks had 44 strikeouts during the series.

“Credit Arkansas — they played really well this weekend," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said on the Florida postgame radio show. "We kind of fell apart there in the bottom of the seventh and they had the big inning with seven runs. They just outplayed us this weekend. They out-pitched us, they out-hit us.”

The Gators (35-19, 17-13) were swept for the second time this year. The sweep was Arkansas’ first since a March 26-28 series at Mississippi State.

EARLIER

Arkansas 9 Florida 3 - FINAL

Zack Morris in to pitch now for Arkansas.

Costeiu - 1.0IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 2K, 19 pitches

Armstrong grounds out to third to start the inning.

Costeiu walks the next batter, but gets Halter looking on an 0-2 offspeed pitch.

Thompson doubles down the left field line, and the runner on first comes in to score.

Costeiu gets a swinging strikeout to finish the game.

Arkansas 9 Florida 2 - End 8th

Brandon Sproat in for Scott to start the eighth.

Smith walks to start the inning. Bates and Battles strike out and fly out before Leach singles through the left side.

Welch works the count, sees a 100 mph fastball in the process, but flies out to right to end the inning.

Arkansas 9 Florida 2 - Middle 8th

Ryan Costeiu in to pitch now for Arkansas.

Vermillion - 1.0IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 2K, 17 pitches

Costeiu sets down Florida in order in the 8th. Fabian had an 10-pitch at bat with Costeiu. Costeiu struck him out swinging and then had some words for Fabian, even pointing at him and then motioning toward the Florida dugout. Crew chief and home plate umpire Jeff Head looked like he warned Costeiu as he walked off the field.

Arkansas 9 Florida 2 - End 7th

Arkansas has gotten to Aleman a little bit here in the seventh. After Robert Moore struck out to begin the inning, Smith and Bates have hit back to back singles to put runners on the corners for Battles.

Battles comes through with a single between the shortstop and third to give the Hogs the lead. Bates stays at second.

Leach is hit by a pitch to load the bases and that's it for Aleman.

Jordan Butler in to pitch for Florida.

Aleman - 6.1IP, 7H, 3R, 3ER, 1BB, 8K, 93 pitches.

Charlie Welch comes in to pinch hit for Goodheart.

A wild pitch allows Bates to score.

Welch then bounces one off the base of the wall in left field to extend Arkansas' lead to 6-2.

Wallace is hit by a pitch and then Slavens pulls a ball to right field that gets over the fence and busts this game wide open. A seven run inning for Arkansas and they are in command of this game.

Christian Scott in to pitch for Florida now.

Butler - 0.0, 2H, 3R, 3ER 0BB, 0K, 8 pitches

Franklin and Moore end the inning by striking out, but what an inning from Arkansas.

Arkansas 2 Florida 2 - Middle 7th

Zebulon Vermillion now in to pitch for Arkansas.

Tole - 1.0IP, 1H, 1R, 1ER, 0BB, 1K, 9 pitches

Vermillion gets two strikeouts and a fly out to left. It's stretch time at Baum-Walker and the Hogs and Gators are all tied up.

Arkansas 2 Florida 2 - End 6th

For the second inning in a row the Hogs are set down in order.

Wallace, Slavens and Franklin are set down on a strikeout, groundout and a fly out.

Aleman has settled down in the last two innings.

Arkansas 2 Florida 2 - Middle 6th

Heston Tole in to pitch now for Arkansas.

Noland - 1.0IP, 2H, 1R, 1ER, 0BB, 1K, 21 pitches

Tole hits the leadoff batter and then the next batter hits a hot shot right under the glove of Slavens at first base. Fabian moves to third on the hit. Runners on the corners with nobody out.

Calilao grounds into a double play up the middle, but Fabian scores to tie the game.

Tole buries a 1-2 pitch in the dirt and gets McMullen to chase to end the inning.

Arkansas 2 Florida 1 - End 5th

Arkansas goes down in order in the fifth.

A groundout, strikeout and a flyout end the inning.

Arkansas 2 Florida 1 - Middle 5th

Connor Noland in to pitch now for Arkansas.

Ramage - 1.0IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 1K, 21 pitches.

Thompson hits a hard shot to Slavens at first. It looked like it bounced off Slavens' glove and rolled into the outfield. They give Thompson a hit.

Noland strikes out the next batter, but the runner advances on the failed hit and run attempt.

Acton singles to shortstop to put runners on first and third. The ball was hit in the hole, and Battles got to it, but his only play was to try and get the lead runner and he didn't.

Young hits a slow roller to Smith at third, he fields and throws out Young. The runner scores and the runner on first moves to second.

The next batter flies out to left to end the inning.

Arkansas 2 Florida 0 - End 4th

Wallace leads things off with a hard shot single up the middle.

Slavens follows with a shot over the Arkansas bullpen in left field to give the Razorbacks a 2-0 lead.

Franklin strikes out swinging for the first out.

Moore follows with a single up the middle.

Smith works a full count walk and that prompts a mound visit from Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan. Florida sends about 5-6 players down to the bullpen.

Bates hits a line shot, but right at the right fielder. Robert Moore took off like he thought it was going to drop and he's thrown out at second base.

Arkansas 0 Florida 0 - Middle 4th

Kole Ramage in to pitch now for Wiggins.

Wiggins - 3.0IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 2K, 43 pitches

Fabian gets his first hit of the series to lead off the fourth.

He's thrown out at second trying to steal on a hit and run that was missed by the batter.

Ramage gets the batter Armstrong looking on an offspeed pitch for the second out.

A single to left is stranded there as McMullen flies out to left.

Arkansas 0 Florida 0 - End 3rd

Arkansas goes 1-2-3 in the third without the ball leaving the infield. Two strikeouts and a groundout move the game to the top of the fourth.

Arkansas 0 Florida 0 - Middle 3rd

A triple is sandwiched around a groundout and two flyouts to end the inning. Bates left his feet on a ball hit right at him with two out, and it go by him and rolled all the way to the wall. So it goes in the book as a triple, but Bates should have just stayed on his feet and kept the ball in front of him.

It doesn't hurt the Hogs though and we are still scoreless as we head to the bottom of the third.

Arkansas 0 Florida 0 - End 2nd

Franklin strikes out swinging to start the inning.

Moore one hops the fence in left field for a double to give the Hogs their first hit of the game.

He's stranded there though as Smith and Bates fly out.

Arkansas 0 Florida 0 - Middle 2nd

Wiggins gives up his first hit of the day with a one-out single to right, but that's it in the second inning.

Armstrong started things out by grounding out to Moore.

Then Wiggins forced a pop out to center and got Thompson looking for the third out.

Arkansas 0 Florida 0 - End 1st

Goodheart hits a line drive, but it's right at the left fielder.

Wallace strikes out swinging on three pitches.

Slavens grounds out to the second baseman who was playing on the edge of the outfield grass to end the inning.

Arkansas 0 Florida 0 - Middle 1st

Wiggins sets down Florida in order to start the inning. He got a groundout, flyout and a strikeout. He was sitting around 97-99 mph on his fastball. He wasn't locating his offspeed very well in that inning, but he threw it enough to keep batters off balance.

Lineups

Florida

LF Jacob Young

C Nathan Hickey

CF Jud Fabian

DH Kris Armstrong

1B Kendrick Calilao

3B Kirby McMullen

RF Sterling Thompson

SS Josh Rivera

2B Cory Acton

P Franco Aleman

Arkansas

DH Matt Goodheart

RF Cayden Wallace

1B Brady Slavens

CF Christian Franklin

2B Robert Moore

3B Cullen Smith

LF Ethan Bates

SS Jalen Battles

C Dylan Leach

P Jaxson Wiggins

Pregame

Arkansas clinched the SEC overall and SEC West championships outright with a 4-3 victory Friday.

Florida was eliminated from SEC East contention Friday.

Arkansas is the second SEC team to win all 10 regular-season conference series, joining the 2013 Vanderbilt team. The Razorbacks have won 11 consecutive series against SEC teams, dating to a 2019 super regional win over Ole Miss.

Florida had won five consecutive series against Missouri, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Georgia prior to its series loss in Fayetteville.

Arkansas’ Kevin Kopps was named SEC co-pitcher of the week following 6 2/3 innings of relief at Tennessee last week. Kopps allowed a run during the ninth inning of the series finale, which snapped a consecutive scoreless innings streak of 28 — one inning shy of the program record. Kopps pitched three scoreless innings against the Gators on Thursday and a scoreless ninth inning Friday.

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