HOOVER, Ala. - Florida stayed alive in the 2022 SEC Tournament with a 7-5 victory over No. 13 Arkansas in the third round at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on Friday afternoon.
Jac Caglianone (2-for-3), Colby Halter (2-for-3) and Jud Fabian (2-for-3) all homered in the win, combining for six RBI and five runs scored.
After trading zeros in the first, the Gators (37-21, 15-15 SEC) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Ty Evans led off with a single to left, then advanced to third on a J. Fabian double down the left-field line. On the first pitch of the next at bat, Caglianone delivered a two-run single with a grounder back up the middle.
Florida starting pitcher Nick Pogue held the Razorbacks (38-18, 18-12 SEC) scoreless through the fifth. The right-hander struck out eight across the five innings, tying his career high.
The Gators extended their lead with a three-run frame in the bottom of the fifth. Caglianone picked up his third RBI of the day with a deep, solo home run to right center, while Halter homered to right on a 2-1 count just moments later. After a Wyatt Langford walk and single by Sterlin Thompson, BT Riopelle came through with an RBI double to left, bringing the score to 5-0 in favor of Florida.
Arkansas answered in the top of the sixth, opening the inning with back-to-back home runs by Cayden Wallace and Michael Turner. That forced Pogue's exit from the contest, as right-handed reliever Blake Purnell took over for the Orange & Blue. Purnell retired the next three Razorbacks in order on 11 pitches to send the matchup into the bottom of the sixth.
J. Fabian worked a 2-1 count to lead off the bottom half of the frame, then connected on his 21st home run of the campaign to push the Gator lead to 6-2. Caglianone and Kendrick Calilao followed with a pair of hit-by-pitches, putting two men on with one out for Halter. The Florida second baseman produced in a big spot yet again, sending a 2-2 offering back up the middle for an RBI single to plate Caglianone.
With a 7-2 advantage in hand, right-hander Ryan Slater took over for Purnell after a leadoff single in the seventh. Slater held Florida's five-run lead until there were two outs in the ninth. From there, Jalen Battles scored on a passed ball and Braydon Webb hit a two-run homer to left center, bringing the score to its final tally of 7-5.
Pogue (4-3) earned the win, tossing five-plus innings of two-run ball on four hits and two walks. The righty tied his career high with eight strikeouts.
Arkansas starting pitcher Connor Noland (5-5) was saddled with the loss, allowing five earned runs on six hits and one walk across 4 2/3 frames. He struck out five.
In addition to J. Fabian, Caglianone and Halter, Riopelle (2-for-4) also collected multiple hits on Friday.
- J. Fabian connected for his 21st home run of the season, tying Wyatt Langford for the team lead and moving into a four-way tie for the SEC lead. The long ball marked the 53rd of Fabian's career, as he is now two home runs away from tying Brad Wilkerson (55) for third on Florida's all-time home run list.
- Pogue tied his career high with eight strikeouts.
- The Gators are 35-36 all-time vs. Arkansas. Florida is 17-22 against the Razorbacks under head coach Kevin O'Sullivan. The Gators have won three-straight games against Arkansas.
- Florida improved to 73-67 all-time at the SEC Tournament.
- Florida has won 12 of its last 15 games and 14 of its last 18.
- Caglianone tied his career high with three RBI.
FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O'SULLIVAN
On what contributed to today's win...
"I thought we were much better today offensively than yesterday, obviously, but we got a lot of production from a lot of different guys in the lineup, which was good to see, and tried to use the short game a little bit more today to kind of get a little bit more offense going. Nick Pogue was really good, gave us another quality start. Blake came in for an inning and then obviously we stretched out Ryan there at the end and did a real nice job. Credit Arkansas, they battled right there until the end and were one hit away from getting the tying run to the plate. Looking forward to playing tomorrow and hopefully playing a little bit better."
On the lineup shakeup...
"Yeah, I think maybe just take a little pressure off and maybe moving somebody down just a couple spots, moving somebody up a couple spots may make a difference, but sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't, but today maybe took a little pressure off some of the hitters, and obviously our approach was better today than it was yesterday."
On Pogue's effectiveness...
"Yeah, I mean, I thought he was throwing the ball really good. Obviously, they ran his pitch count up a little bit. I think he got to about 80 pitches through five. But he really pitched to both sides of the plate with his fastball today. I thought his changeup was outstanding to both left-handers and right-handers, and that's kind of the equalizer for him against right-handers. You don't see many right-handed pitchers that have the ability to throw right-on-right changeups. Slider was good enough, just to throw it just enough to keep them off balance. But he battled, and you've got to remember, he's somebody coming off Tommy John. He's only been 15 months out. He's not at full strength yet. His velocity will come back as time goes on. But he really pitched really well today."
Florida advances to face the loser of this afternoon's game between Alabama and Texas A&M at 10:30 a.m. ET tomorrow morning on SEC Network, with a trip to the SEC Tournament semifinals on the line.