HOOVER, Ala.—We've got a quick turnaround time before the Alabama-Mississippi winners' bracket game starts, so let's keep this tight and go bullet point-style. Some tid-bits from Florida's 5-3 . . . err, 5-4 win against Arkansas:
• The final score on the scoreboard and in the first official box score distributed was 5-3. After the post-game press conferences were completed, new box scores were handed out with a new final score: 5-4. The reason for the confusion was a wild final play of the game.
With runners on the corners and one out in the ninth, Arkansas' James McCann drove a sinking liner into the right-center-field gap.
"Honestly when the ball left the bat, I didn't think he was going to get to it," Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan said of his right fielder, Jonathan Pigott. "I thought it was going to be gapper and the game was going to be tied at that point."
So did Tim Carver, the runner at first base, and so must have just about every observer at Regions Park. But Pigott closed the distance between himself and the ball impossibly quickly, then laid out parallel to the ground and snared it. He got up and threw to second baseman Josh Adams, who made the relay to first to double off Carver.
Meanwhile, pinch-runner Brett Eibner tagged from third base and scored, prompting confusion in the press box whether the run should count or not.
That debate was immaterial, of course. Florida had won, 5-3 or 5-4, sending Arkansas home to await its NCAA tournament fate following an 0-2 showing in the SEC tournament.
• Hogs coach Dave Van Horn said he thinks his team has accomplished enough to host a regional.
"I think we deserve it," he said. "I'm not going to sit here and beg for it. But we've gone on the road and played, we played a great schedule, we came in second in the West. We won two of three on the road at Ole Miss and Vandy—those are the two teams that are trying to get one. I think both us and Vandy will get one, but we'll see. It's the SEC, it's a tough league, but we had 18 wins (in conference play)."
It is a strong resume, and Van Horn is probably right that his team is still in line to host. But it's not a slam dunk, particularly if Vandy (which evened the season series against Arkansas yesterday) can make a deep run in Hoover and Connectict (which lost to Rutgers today) can make a deep run in the Big East. But the smart money is still on Arkansas hosting a regional.
• Will the Razorbacks be at full strength when regionals begin? Maybe, but not definitely.
Third baseman Zack Cox, who missed almost the entire Vanderbilt series and both games in Hoover with a strained ribcage, is "the big question mark," as Van Horn put it. The Razorbacks do not want to rush him back before he's ready and have him aggravate the injury, so they'll wait to see how he feels next week.
Eibner, a two-way star, was sidelined with swelling in his right hand stemming from a hit-by-pitch a few weeks ago. Van Horn said he'll be fine for regionals.
Andy Wilkins, normally the first baseman, started at third in place of Cox Thursday. He collided with Drew Smyly on a pop-up in front of the pitcher's mound in the eighth inning, then stayed on the ground for a few minutes and was replaced by Matt Reynolds.
"His nose, it might have stopped bleeding by now," Van Horn said in the post-game. "His two front teeth were sore. He was a little out of it—he didn't even know who he ran into at first. I'm just glad it has nothing to do with his jaw, and his nose isn't broken. He'll probably be swollen up for a few days, but he'll be OK."
Smyly's performance was the good news for Arkansas today. The ace lefty pitched well in relief of Mike Bolsinger, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks while striking out six over five innings. A scout said his fastball ranged from 88-93 mph with some downward tail, his 76-78 changeup had late dive, and his 76-82 breaking ball was effective. Coming into the week, the Hogs were unsure if Smyly would be able to pitch because of a blister on his index finger.
"I felt fine, just as good as any other weekend," Smyly said. "We didn't want the blister to rip open and not be able to pitch in regionals. I had some Durabond medical glue we put on it, and it was fine—didn't bother me at all."
• Florida closer Kevin Chapman did not have his best stuff or location, but Pigott's catch bailed him out of what would have been a blown save. Chapman threw exclusively fastballs in his scoreless ninth, ranging from 91-94 with some sink and run.
"Today he wasn't really sharp, to be honest with you," O'Sullivan said. "That's the worst he's thrown in an awful long time, as far as command goes . . . He's got really good command of three pitches. He doesn't use them very often, but if he needs to use his change or his breaking ball he can do that. You don't see many lefthanded closers."
• Florida got a solid outing from ace lefty Alex Panteliodis (6.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K), though he caught a bad break in the fifth, when Collin Kuhn hit a high pop fly to right and Preston Tucker lost it in the sun. Kuhn wound up with a two-run triple on the play, getting Arkansas within a run at 4-3.
"I was a little mad, you know, but you have to take the sun into factor," Panteliodis said while O'Sullivan smirked and shook his head at his ace's bluntness. "That type of stuff happens all the time. I wasn't happy with it, but we came back."
Tucker misplayed another ball in the seventh, committing a two-base error on a Tom Hauskey flyball. Tucker has played some right, but he is a first baseman by trade, and he was in the outfield today so O'Sullivan could try some new combinations in the infield. The Gators have that luxury, having already wrapped up a national seed.
O'Sullivan said that freshman Austin Maddox has generally done a solid job at third base, but that his lack of range cost the Gators yesterday against LSU, so he wanted to see what freshman Cody Dent could do at the hot corner. That meant sliding Maddox across the infield to first base, and shifting Tucker to right, where he had an adventurous day.
Fortunately for Florida, O'Sullivan moved Tucker back to first in the eighth and put Pigott in right. Otherwise, Florida might have been on its way back to Gainesville right now.
"We're going to have some tough decisions to make come next weekend about who we're going to start in the outfield," O'Sullivan said. "I know Tuck had a tough day in right field, but he's a good outfielder. He made a mistake—he needs to check the sun every inning and have his glasses ready. He won't make that mistake again.
"We've got to shore up our defense. That would be a heck of a thing to lose a game because of defense down the stretch."
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