FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- No. 2 Florida used a six-run fourth inning to post a 12-8 victory over Arkansas in the teams' series opener on Thursday night at Baum Stadium. Returning to action for the first time since April 3, junior left-hander A.J. Puk (2-2) registrered nine strikeouts over five innings for the Gators (31-5/9-4 SEC) to earn the win against the Hogs (21-13/4-9 SEC).
Sophomore Mike Rivera tied his career high by driving in three runs, junior Peter Alonso broke a scoreless tie in the fourth with a two-run single and junior Buddy Reed was 2-for-3 with three runs, two walks, two thefts and an RBI. Eight of Florida's nine starters reached base and four of the squad's 12 hits were doubles. Trailing 11-2, Arkansas scored five runs against a quartet of pitchers in the eighth and junior Shaun Anderson recorded his seventh save by notching the final four outs.
The Gators exploded for six runs on five hits in the fourth inning to open the scoring. Freshman Deacon Liput (2-for-6) led off with a single up the middle and Reed and sophomore JJ Schwarz followed with consecutive walks to end the night for junior Dominic Taccolini (3-2), who yielded one hit and was charged with three runs over three innings. Alonso greeted junior Josh Alberius (1.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R) with a two-run single into left field to bring home Liput and Reed and freshman Jonathan India (2-for-5, two runs) roped a one-out double into right center to score Schwarz. Rivera plated Alonso and India with a double into the left-field corner and freshman Nelson Maldonado (2-for-4, two RBI) came through with UF's third double of the frame to drive in Rivera.
Florida added another run in the fifth against sophomore Hunter Hart. Reed started the frame with a base-hit up the middle, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. After Schwarz drew a walk, the Gators were able to take a 7-0 advantage when Schwarz stole second base with a one down and Reed scored on a throwing error by senior catcher Tucker Pennell.
Arkansas used back-to-back two-out RBI singles by junior Clark Eagan (2-for-3) and sophomore Luke Bonfield to narrow the deficit to 7-2 in the bottom of the inning. Freshman Grant Koch (1-for-3, three RBI) led off with a walk and senior Rick Nomura (2-for-3, two runs) singled through the right side before Puk struck out freshman Darien Simms and sophomore Carson Shaddy. After Eagan singled into left to plate Koch, Bonfield blooped a base-hit into center to bring across Nomura. Puk stranded a pair of runners in scoring position by having junior Alex Gosser ground out to India. Over five innings, the southpaw gave up five hits and two runs, with nine strikeouts and three walks.
The Gators built an 8-2 lead in the sixth thanks to a sacrifice fly by Reed to center field that brought in Rivera. After junior Frank Rubio hurled a perfect sixth, Florida added two more runs in the seventh on RBI singles by India and Maldonado and Schwarz had an RBI grounder in the eighth.
Koch brought Arkansas within 11-5 in the eighth with a three-run homer to left field off of freshman Michael Byrne (1.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R). Nomura greeted freshman reliever Eddy Demurias with a ground-rule double and Shaddy had an RBI double down the right-field line that narrowed the gap to 11-6 and prompted another pitching change. Sophomore Scott Moss issued a walk to Eagan and Anderson was summoned from the bullpen. A wild pitch reduced the Gators' lead to four runs before Anderson ended the inning with a strikeout to strand a runner on third base. After an RBI single by Liput plated Guthrie in the ninth, sophomore Chad Spanberger homered with two down in the ninth to finalize the scoring.
The Gators and Hogs will meet in game two of the series on Friday at 7:30 p.m., with junior right-hander Logan Shore (6-0, 2.66) facing sophomore right-hander Keaton McKinney (1-1, 6.25). Jeff Cardozo and Steve Russell have the call on the Gator IMG Sports Network and the game will be streamed on SEC Network+ and through the ESPN app.