I must admit, I had very little motivation to write up this week's edition of Diamond Hog Update. I also considered calling it the "Well, That Sucked" Edition or the "What Do You Expect in Gainesville?" Edition. After barreling through the softer portion of their SEC schedule, the Diamond Hogs finally hit a road block at Florida. In addition to losing the series 2 games to 1, the Hogs saw all of their major streaks (13-game winning streak, streak of games with 10+ hits, Zack Cox's and Monk Kreder's 10+-game hitting streaks, and the 7-game win streak over the Gators) come to an end. Like the LSU series, this was a close, hard-fought battle. Unlike the LSU series, however, this one was marred by several questionable (to the point of being laughably wrong) calls in the deciding game, noticeably the game-winning call at the plate where the runner is ruled safe after being tagged at least once (and maybe twice) by catcher James McCann. Hmmm... blantantly-wrong, game-altering calls going Florida's way, in Gainesville. I swear I've seen that somewhere before, around last October. Oh, yeah, we beat Oral Roberts (another team that beat Texas) sometime last week, too.For the Oral Roberts Game, Randall Fant makes his return after serving a suspension for his alcohol-related arrest several weeks ago. He shows some cobwebs, as ORU leads off the 2nd inning with a solo shot, but Brett Eibner takes that run back with his own solo homer in the bottom of the inning. The 4th inning is also not nice to fant, as he allows back-to-back solo homers to put the Golden Eagles up 3-1. However, the Hogs waste no time in rallying. Zack Cox starts the bottom of the 4th off with a double and takes 3rd on a wild pitch. Andy Wilkins is walked, but the 4th ball is a wild pitch that allows Cox to take home. Eibner follows that up with his second homer of of the day, a 2-run bomb that gives the Hogs a 4-3 lead. Monk Kreder seems to reach 1st safely on a single, as the 1B appears to pull his foot off the bag, but he's called out anyways. Travis Sample gets on with a single, and then Tim Carver lauches his own 2-run homer for the Hogs' 5th run of the inning. Jeremy Heatley relieves Fant for the 5th. Fant's day ends with 5 hits, 3 ERs, and 5 Ks in 4 innings. ORU battles back with a 2-RBI double to cut the lead to 6-5 in the 5th. ORU badly wants this win, as they bring in a weekend starter to pitch the 5th. It wouldn't work, though, as consecutive singles by Eibner, Kreder, and Sample plate another run in the 5th to put the Hogs up 7-5. TJ Forrest comes in to pitch the 6th. Heatley gives up 2 hits and 2 ERs in only 1 inning, but also strikes out 3. The hits just keep coming for the Hogs, as Cox adds an RBI single to score Kuhn in the 6th, making the the score 8-5. After missing the past few weeks with an injury, Jason Fuqua makes his return in the 7th. Forrest gives up 1 hit and strikes out 1 in his only inning of action. Sample continues the theme with another Solo homer in the 7th. Jordan Pratt comes on in relief for the 8th. Fuqua allows no hits or runs, and strikes out 1 in the inning. Mike Bolsinger comes in to close down the game in the 9th. Pratt gives up 1 hit and strikes out 3 in his inning. Bolsinger quickly retires the side, and the Hogs win 9-5, with Heatley taking the W.
The Gators score first in Game 1 in the Florida series, as starting pitcher Drew Smyly is a little shaky in the bottom of the 1st and lets a run score on a RBI single. Travis Sample takes that run back in the 2nd, with a solo homer. After loading the bases in the 5th, Smyly gets called for a balk, putting the Gators up 2-1. The Razorbacks immediately respond, as Bo Bigham lauches a 2-run shot to put the Hogs up by 1 in the 6th inning. Sample leads off the 7th with a double and is replaced by pinch runner Matt Vinson. Tim Carver follows that up with a bunt single to put runners on the corners, and they both score on Collin Kuhn's 3-run shot to give the Hogs a commanding 6-2 lead. Florida tacks on another run with a solo shot in 7th. The Razorbacks extend their lead in the 8th to 8-3, as Andy Wilkins crosses the plate on Tim Carver's groundout and Monk Kreder scores on James McCann's double. Mike Bolsinger comes in to close out the game in the 8th. Smyly's day ends with 8 hits, 3 ERs, and 10 Ks. Bolsinger shuts down the Gator offense, allowing no hits or runs, and striking out 4, to seal the 8-3 Razorback victory. Drew Smyly gets the well-deserved win. Unfortunately, despite getting the win, the Razorbacks saw two streaks end today: their streak of consecutive games with 10+ hits is over, although they came tantalizingly close with 9 hits, and Monk Kreder's double-digit hitting streak also ended.
I was busy with Red-White Game festivities for Game 2. It's just as well, because this game wasn't even close. The Gators get on the board first in the 4th inning, Bo Bigham and Collin Kuhn get in each other's way trying to catch a inning-ending fly ball. It drops to the ground, and a Florida players scores from 1st. It gets worse in the 5th, as starting pitcher Brett Eibner gives up 3 runs on 5 hits, while only recording 2 outs. Geoffrey Davenport comes in to try and get out of the inning, but he immediately gives up a 3 run-blast for the 6th run of the inning, as the Gators go up 7-0. Eibner gives up 7 hits, 6 runs (5 earned), and strikes out 3 through 3.2 innings. Arkansas finally puts some runs up in the 6th, as Brett Eibner's double scores Bo Bigham. Monk Kreder's single moves Eibner to 3rd, and Travis Sample's single scores him to bring the score to 7-2. That all the production the Hogs would have for the day, though, despite getting 9 hits. Florida adds a "small ball" run in the 6th on a single, and that would be the final deficit. Christian Kowalchuk comes in for the 8th inning. Davenport gives up 5 hits, 2 ERs, and 3 Ks in 3.2 innings. Kowalchuk quickly retires the side, and the offense stalls in the 9th, sealing the Florida victory. Zack Cox's hitting streak ended this day, as well as Arkansas' string of victories over the Gators that extends back to 2008.
Game 3 began with a 2.5 hour rain delay. This was a slow game with the majority of the offense coming from Florida's solo home run off starting pitcher Randall Fant in the 4th and Collin Kuhn's game tying solo shot in the 8th. The story of this game turned out to be the blown calls. After Andy Wilkins gets called out trying to steal 2nd in the 9th, when he pretty clearly beat the tag, the conspiracy theorist in me thought "the fix was in". With that in mind, what happened in the bottom of the inning was surreal. With 1 out, Mike Bolsinger lets runners on 1st and 2nd with consecutive singles. On the next play, the batter hits the ball to shallow right and Florida goes for the win with a play at the plate. Catcher James McCann receives the ball a good 10 feet from the plate, and goes for the tag. From the video, it appears 1 of 2 things happen: either he makes the tag at this point, or the Florida player escapes it only by running way outside the baseline. McCann obviously thinks he makes the tag, as he immediately shows the umpire the ball. Regardless of what happened with the tag, the Florida player clearly misses the plate, but you can see the umpire signaling "safe". Realizing what's happening, McCann and the runner make a diving attempt at the plate. The video is inconclusive, but the photographic evidence is damning: McCann makes clearly makes the tag. The runner is called safe anyways, and Florida wins, 2-1, under the most questionable of circumstance. Coach Van Horn was understandably furious, and appears to maybe have made inappropriate with an umpire, so there may be some fallout from that.
The Razorbacks go 2-2 for the week, and the series loss to Florida is tough to swallow, even moreso than the LSU series. What's most frustrating is that the outcome of the series was decided not by the players, but by an obviously wrong call. Allusions to last year's football contest abound. Arkansas didn't play perfectly during the rubber match, but that really shouldn't matter. I don't know that I can ever remember getting a wrong, game-altering call to go our way. I can think of plenty of examples of wrong, game-altering calls going against the Razorbacks, and the attitude is always something along the lines of "if Arkansas was the better team, then that bad call wouldn't have mattered". I've never understood that logic.
The Hogs now sit at 33-8 (13-5) on the season, and still ranked in the top 10 in all 5 major college baseball polls (highest at #6 by Rivals). They also still have a top-5 RPI. The Hogs are back at Baum all week this week, with a mid-week contest against Missouri St. on Wednesday and the Auburn Tigers visiting for the weekend matchup. The with the loss to Florida, taking the series from Auburn becomes that much more important. Despite losing the series this weekend, the Hogs actually extended their lead in the SEC West to 2 games, thanks to Ole Miss' sweep of LSU. They fell behind South Carolina in the overall standings, but there's still time to fix that. This loss stings, but I don't expect the Hogs to dwell on it. Woo Pig Sooie!