Florida baseball has been struggling to put together consecutive excellent offensive performances for the better part of a month now. On Saturday, coming off a 3-2 win on Friday that was the result of one good inning, the Gators continued those struggles, managing a lone run in a 5-1 loss to Arkansas.
Florida tagged Arkansas starter Randall Fant for six hits in three innings, and pushed across its only run in the bottom of the third on an RBI single by Brian Johnson, but squandered a two-on, no-out at-bat from Mike Zunino on a bunt. (Bunts are dumb, remember?) Preston Tucker was thrown out at home while trying to score in the inning.
And then Arkansas' bullpen shut the Gators down, with Brandon Moore yielding just three hits in five innings, two on Zunino doubles. Barrett Astin finished Florida off by working a hitless ninth.
Zunino went 3-for-4 on the night, his only out coming on the bunt, but Johnson, who has been hot for seemingly the entirety of April, was the only other Gator with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 on the night. Josh Tobias, making his return to the lineup, went 1-for-2 before being lifted for pinch hitter Taylor Gushue.
Vickash Ramjit made a great play in the field for the second straight night, with a diving catch in the outfield — it's picture No. 15 in GatorZone's gallery — but it was for naught in the loss.
Since scoring 20 runs in a weekend series against LSU, Florida has gotten diminishing returns in SEC play, scoring 15 runs in three games against Tennessee, 12 in a three-game set against Georgia, and just four through two games against Arkansas.
Johnson's strong month with the bat has not been equaled on the mound, and Saturday's five earned runs on eight hits in 4.1 innings constituted maybe Johnson's worst outing of the year. Greg Larson mopped up Johnson's mess in the fifth, but allowed two RBI singles in 0.2 innings of work, and Keenan Kish finished the night with perhaps his best appearance for Florida, striking out four in four perfect innings of work.
If Kish can become a valuable long reliever and situational arm, the Gators' tremendous bullpen will only get deeper. But if Florida can't get all the way right on offense, Gators fans are in for a frustrating couple of months as their talented team sputters toward Omaha.
The rubber match between Florida and Arkansas is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, and will be televised on ESPN. The Gators will start Jonathon Crawford, 4-1 with a 3.86 ERA.