Hogs win SEC title on Welch’s pinch hit walkoff

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Kopps Records 10th Win

Dave Van Horn got his first outright SEC title on a dramatic walk-off RBI single to center by Charlie Welsh as Arkansas took its season ending series with a come from behind 4-3 win over Florida. With the victory the Razorbacks will finish the regular season without losing a single SEC series. Arkansas ran its record to 41-10, 21-8 in league play.

The Hogs tied the game at 3-3 on an 8th inning solo home run by Robert Moore, his 13th of the season. Pitching in his second straight game, Kevin Kopps came on to shut the Gators down in the top of the 9th setting up the win in the bottom of the inning.

The game did not start out promising for Arkansas. Florida jumped on starter Caleb Bolden right off the bat. Three first inning singles brought two runs home in the top of the 1st and freshman left-hander Hunter Barco made quick work of the Hogs in the bottom of the inning. Florida’s Sterlin Thompson led off the 2nd with a solo home run but Bolden bounced back to strike out the next three batters and the visitors would not score again.

Arkansas struck back in the bottom of the inning. Christian Franklin smacked a one-out solo home run to right. Barco then walked Robert Moore who went to second on a wild pitch to Cullen Smith. Barco walked Smith and hit Casey Optiz to load the bases. Jalen Battles narrowed the lead to a run with a sac fly to right scoring Moore.

Bolden set the Gators down in order in the top of the 3rd but Barco bounced back to do the same to Arkansas. Florida narrowly missed adding to its lead in the 4th when Hunter Mullen sent a shot to the top of the wall in left. Brayden Webb went high for the catch allowing Bolden to pitch his second straight scoreless inning. Barco survived a two-out single in the bottom of the 4th and it was still 3-2 Florida going to the 5th.

Payton Pallette entered the game for Bolden at that point. He gave up a two-out single but escaped without further damage. Webb sent a one-out single to right in the bottom of the 5th. He took second on a wild pitch after Matt Goodheart had struck out. Wallace walked but with the tying run at second Brady Slavens bounced out to first.

Pallette gave up a leadoff single in the 6th and then left the game after appearing to suffer some type of injury. Caden Monke came on in relief of Pallette and Arkansas quickly turned a 5-4-3 double play. Monke ended the half inning with a strikeout. In the bottom of the 6th Smith blooped a two out single into shallow centerfield but Optiz flied out to deep left as Barco reached 108 pitches.

Monke gave the home crowd some drama in the 7th. He opened by issuing a leadoff walk. Struck out two then gave up a single to left followed by a third strikeout.

Junior right hander Jack Leftwitch came on in relief for Florida in the bottom of the 7th. Once again Arkansas came up with a two-out single as Matt Goodheart broke out of an 0-19 slump but again Arkansas left the tying run on base as Wallace flied out to right.

Monke struck out the side in the 8th. Leftwitch took down Slavens and Franklin in the bottom of the inning. That’s when Moore tied it on his solo shot to right.

Kopps relieved Monke in the 9th and he set down Florida with three strikeouts. Optiz doubled to open the bottom of the of the 9th and advanced to third on an error in centerfield. But after Battles had popped out to first, Welsh drove a shot to deep right center. The ball dropped and Optiz scored to give the Hogs a 4-3 win. Kopps got the win, his 10th of the season. The victory gave Arkansas a two game lead over Tennessee in the SEC standings with one to play after the Vols dropped game two of their series with South Carolina.

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