Cayden Wallace hit two home runs and drove in four runs while Patrick Wicklander and Kevin Kopps combined to strike out 16 Florida batters as Arkansas edged closer to an overall SEC title with a 6-1 win over the Gators in game one of the Hogs final series of the regular season. The win ran Arkansas’ record to 40-10 and came in front of the first sellout crowd at Baum-Walker Stadium since the 2019 season.
Wicklander opened the top of the 1st, setting the Florida down in order via a fly out, ground out and strikeout. The first “K” of the game was to national home run leader Jud Fabian.
Wallace got the first hit of the game on a two-out infield single in the bottom of the 1st. He got as far as second via a wild pitch but was stranded there when Brady Slavens flied out to left.
Florida jumped on the scoreboard with a one-out home run in the 2nd by Kendrick Calilao. The Gators made a bid for a 2-0 lead but Christian Franklin hauled in Josh Rivera’s shot to the wall with a nice catch in left center to end the top of the inning. Franklin had the tables turned on him leading off in the bottom of the 2nd as his bid to tie the game was also caught at the left centerfield wall.
Florida put runners on first and third in the top of the 3rd but Wicklander struck out Fabian for second time to end the threat. Casey Optiz opened the bottom of the inning for Arkansas with a down-the-line double to right. Jalen Battles then sent a flyball to right deep enough to move Opitz to third with one out. Zach Gregory struck out. Matt Goodheart and Wallace both walked and the bases were loaded for Slavens who popped out to right center. After three, Florida still had the 1-0 lead.
Wicklander worked a 1-2-3 inning in the 4th, needing just eight pitches to set down Florida while recording his fifth and sixth strikeouts of the game.
Arkansas finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the 4th. Franklin reached first after getting plunked by Tommy Mace and went to second a wild pitch as Robert Moore struck out. Cullen Smith then struck out but Opitz struck again. His single to right brought Franklin home. Still the Hogs missed a chance at the lead leaving runners at second and third when Gregory struck out for the third time in the game. At the end of four it was a 1-1 ballgame.
Wicklander worked around a leadoff walk in the 5th. Arkansas then took the lead in the bottom of the 5th on a one-out solo home run to right by Wallace, the 84th of the season by the Razorbacks. Slavens followed with a walk. He took second on a wild pitch to Moore after Franklin had struck out. Mace then walked Moore and his day was done. Trey Van Der Weide came out of the pen. Charlie Welch reached first on an error when Van Der Weide slipped trying to field the ball. Opitz then delivered again with an RBI single to right and it was 3-1 after five.
Wicklander mowed down the Gators in 6th with his 9th, 10th and 11th strikeouts of the night. Arkansas also went in order and Kopps came on in relief with a 3-1 lead in the 7th. He faced just three batters and it was still 3-1.
In the bottom of the 7th Franklin reached second on a walk and a wild pitch by Christian Scott in relief of Van Der Weide but Arkansas could not bring him home. In the 8th Kopps worked around a one-out walk thanks in part to a great knockdown and diving tag at first by Slavens for the third out .
Branden Webb hit a two-out double in the bottom of the inning. Goodheart was intentionally walked and that’s when Wallace connected on his second home run of the night, this one a three-run blast to left to make it 6-1 Hogs.
Kopps closed it out, erasing three straight batters in the 9th with five strikeouts overall as the Hogs walked away with a share of the SEC West title with the win.