GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Winning a rivalry series is always special and the Miami Hurricanes did just that Sunday afternoon, taking the series finale over the top-ranked Florida Gators with an 8-6 victory inside Florida Ballpark.
The No. 21 Hurricanes (2-1) came into Gainesville for their annual three-game tilt against rival Florida. Miami nearly came back to win Friday’s opener before a resilient comeback win on Saturday. Sunday’s victory closed out the Hurricanes’ first series win over Florida since taking two-of-three in 2014 and was Miami’s first series victory in Gainesville since sweeping the Gators in 2009.
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Like most games between the two baseball powers, Sunday’s was a battle until the very end. But momentum shifted heavily in the Hurricanes’ favor from the very beginning.
After going down 0-2, leadoff batter Jordan Lala was hit in the back by a 1-2 breaking ball from Florida starter Hunter Barco. After Lala stole second, Yohandy Morales singled up the middle to put runners at the corners with one out and Miami standout Adrian Del Castillo at the plate. The third-year hitting machine ripped a two-run double and Alex Toral followed with an RBI single to right that sent Del Castillo home from second to cap a three-run first inning by the Hurricanes.
Stepping on the mound for the first time as a Hurricane, Victor Mederos showed why he is one of the top true freshmen pitchers in the country. The right-hander settled in after giving up a leadoff double to Jacob Young, striking out the side in his first collegiate inning.
Miami’s offense got going again in the second, with Tony Jenkins leading off the frame with a walk and stolen base before scoring from third on a two-out line drive off the bat of Anthony Vilar that Florida shortstop Josh Rivera could not handle and resulted in a 4-0 Canes’ lead. The error extended the inning and the Hurricanes took advantage, running up Barco’s pitch count by sending three more batters to the plate in the inning.
The Hurricanes led off the third inning with their first homer of the season, as Raymond Gil crushed a 2-2- offering from Barco well beyond the 380-foot sign in left-center field. Gil, who delivered the game-winning hit in the 13th inning on Saturday, gave Miami a five-run lead after just three innings.
And Miami’s offense kept firing against Barco in the fourth, with Morales lacing a triple into the right field corner that drove in Lala to make it 6-0. Del Castillo followed with a hit-by-pitch, and Barco was lifted with runners at the corners and one out in the fourth. The Canes made Barco’s first start of the season a forgettable one for the second-year lefty, as he allowed eight runs (seven earned) on seven hits over just 3.1 innings pitched.
Right-hander Hunter Mink replaced Barco on the mound and the Hurricanes had success against the Gators reliever, loading the bases before Christian Del Castillo smacked a two-out, bases-loaded two-run single that made it 8-0 in Gainesville.
Florida’s offense had some success against Mederos in the bottom of the fourth, opening the inning with three straight singles. Jordan Butler’s base hit up the middle drove in Nathan Hickey to make it 8-1.
After scoring in each of the first four innings, Miami was held scoreless for the first time all game in the top of the fifth. Florida answered with a run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Butler. Mederos was lifted with two outs and the bases loaded in favor of Anthony Arguelles, who got Rivera to fly out to right and end the threat.
Mederos’ collegiate debut was a good one, as the true freshman held Florida to two runs (one earned) on seven hits while striking out five Gators over 4.2 innings pitched.
The Gators added a pair of runs in the sixth, with Jacob Young singling home Mac Guscette and Colby halter scoring on a balk by Arguelles. An inning later, Sterlin Thompson doubled off JP Gates to push home Rivera and Colby Halter singled off Jake Smith to drive in Thompson and put the Gators within two.
After Jud Fabian worked a walk to put the tying run on, DiMare called for lefty Spencer Bozanda to face the left-handed-hitter Hickey and the move was effective, as Hickey flew out to right and stranded two more Gators.
Miami stranded a base runner in the top of the eighth and Florida appeared poised to score with runners at the corners and one out against Miami reliever Ben Wanger. But freshman first baseman CJ Kayfus snared a Thompson line drive and tagged Rivera to complete the inning-ending double play and preserve Miami’s two-run lead.
DiMare turned to his closer in the ninth and Carson Palmquist shut the door in the ninth to pick up his first career save and clinch the series for the Hurricanes. Arguelles also made history, picking up his first win as a Cane.
Miami heads back to Coral Gables for its first home series of the 2021 season. The Hurricanes will open conference play with a three-game set against Virginia Tech beginning Friday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m.