Friday Roundup: Arkansas Powers To Victory At Florida

This weekend’s top-five showdown between No. 2 Florida and No. 4 Arkansas is brimming with fascinating matchups and angles. One of the most intriguing is how the Gators’ power arms would fare against the Razorbacks’ power bats.

At least on Friday night, it was Arkansas that won that matchup. The Razorbacks slugged two homers and defeated the Gators, 6-3, in Game 1 of the series.

The Razorbacks (17-5) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning against Preseason All-American righthander Brady Singer and never looked back. They have been the Gators ace’s kryptonite the last two years. They scored nine runs against him at last year’s SEC Tournament and tagged him for six runs Friday and handed him his first loss of the season. Outfielders Dominic Fletcher (2-for-4, 2 R) and Heston Kjerstad (3-for-3, 3 R) both homered and second baseman Carson Shaddy (1-for-3) drove in three runs.

Righthander Blaine Knight turned in his fifth quality start of the season for the Razorbacks. He struck out 10 batters and held the Gators (19-5) to three runs on five hits and four walks in 6.2 innings. Closer Matt Cronin threw two scoreless innings to earn his fourth save of the season.

Arkansas improved to 4-0 in SEC play after sweeping Kentucky last weekend. The Razorbacks are averaging 8.9 runs per game this season and have won seven of their last eight games. If they can get one more win this weekend, they would clinch a marquee series win that would be an early boost to their NCAA Tournament resume and may be a key in the SEC title race.

Florida will look to get back on track Saturday when it sends Jackson Kowar, another Preseason All-American righthander, to the mound. The Gators are looking to avoid their first series loss of the season.

 Ace Watch

Several aces around the country turned in outstanding performances Friday.

Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford: The Cardinal returned from their finals break with a 5-1 victory against Southern California as Beck turned in a typically strong performance. The redshirt sophomore struck out nine batters, held the Trojans to one run and scattered five hits and a walk. Beck is 3-0, 2.48 with 32 strikeouts and seven walks in 29 innings this season.

Tim Cate, LHP, Connecticut: In a matchup of Preseason All-American lefthanders on Opening Day in the American Athletic Conference, Cate and UConn got the better of Shane McClanahan and South Florida. Cate struck out 11 batters in five innings and held the Bulls to one run on five hits and two walks. He improved to 2-4, 4.41 with 47 strikeouts and 13 walks in 34.2 innings.

Trey Cumbie, LHP, Houston: The junior was again outstanding for Houston in a 2-0 victory against Memphis. Cumbie threw a three-hit shutout, struck out eight and walked one. He has now thrown 21 straight scoreless innings and this season is 2-1, 2.29 with 51 strikeouts and six walks in 39.1 innings.

Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn:
Mize was again outstanding for Auburn in a high-profile matchup at No. 8 Kentucky. The junior struck out 12 batters and limited the Wildcats’ powerful offense to two runs on five hits and no walks. Mize had to settle for a no-decision as Kentucky came back in the ninth inning for a 5-4 victory, but he is now 5-0, 2.04 with 63 strikeouts and three walks in 39.2 innings this season.

 Around the Horn

  • St. Louis and Virginia Commonwealth both opened Atlantic-10 Conference play with victories to extend their winning streaks, which are the two longest active streaks in the country. St. Louis defeated St. Joseph’s, 4-1, to extend its streak to 12 games, while VCU beat Rhode Island, 5-2, to push its streak to 10 games. The two teams are on a collision course for next weekend, when they will meet for a series at St. Louis.
  • After getting swept at home last weekend by North Carolina State and losing Wednesday on a walkoff grand slam at Coastal Carolina, No. 12 Clemson got back on track with a 3-1 victory at No. 17 Louisville. Lefthander Adam Wolf (8 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K) was a tough-luck loser for the Cardinals, who were unable to break through against the Tigers’ pitching staff.
  • Spencer Torkelson hit his 11th home run of the season for Arizona State in a 5-4 loss at No. 16 UCLA. That matches the Sun Devils’ freshman home run record, held by Barry Bonds. Torkelson accomplished the feat in just 22 games, leaving him plenty of time to pass the all-time home run king in Arizona State’s record book.

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