The University of Miami baseball team welcomed back one of its all time great players on Sunday afternoon at Mark Light Stadium.
They wished he had brought his uniform.
The team retired the number of Charles Johnson, the former Hurricane and current Florida Marlin catcher. Johnson played with the team from 1990-92 and is currently listed in the UM record book in five categories.
Johnson’s number 23 was unveiled on the center field wall in a pre game ceremony that brought tears to his eyes.
“Ever since I stepped on this campus, I knew I wanted to be here,” Johnson said.
He was greeted by a standing ovation of over 3,000 fans as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his former manager Ron Fraser.
“I think the greatest memory for me as a player was being here to watch a guy like Coach Fraser on the day he retired,” Johnson said. “He left on the very top of his game. ”
The Hurricanes may have needed a guy like Johnson in the lineup, as they lost their third straight game on Sunday afternoon, 6-2, to state rival Florida.The Hurricanes were once again out hit and completely outplayed by the Gators.
“We played horrible baseball this week,” said veteran relief pitcher Vince Vazquez. “They came out and challenged us and we played like crap.”
After a crushing loss to cross town opponent FIU and a weekend sweep by the Gators, Saturday evening’s rain out seemed to be the only thing to go right for Miami this week.
The Sunday loss brought the ‘Canes to 2-4 on the season and marked the first time in nine years that they fell two games below .500. The last time was on February 28, 1993 – following a loss to the Gators up in Gainesville.
The loss also marked the first time that the Gators completed a series sweep of the Hurricanes at Mark Light Stadium since 1956.
“There are a lot of things we aren’t doing right,” said UM coach Jim Morris. “We are not playing good defense, not hitting with guys on base, blowing opportunities….”
The list goes on and on.
On Sunday, the ‘Canes stumbled through the first five innings with no runs and a dismal two hits, until they showed some life with Kevin Mannix knocking in a pair of runs on a single to left field.
The single brought the ‘Canes to within 3- 2, but the gap was quickly widened to 5-2 in the top of the seventh.
With the bases loaded, sophomore relief pitcher George Huguet was brought in to face Gator right fielder Ben Harrison.
Huguet brought him to a two and two count before promptly hitting Harrison with a pitch to bring in another Gator run.
Huguet responded with a strike out and then what appeared to be a routine ground ball to second. The ball was bobbled by second baseman Paco Figueroa and another run scored for Florida.
That is how it has gone for the ‘Canes of late.
“I told the guys after the game that there is only one way out of this,” said Morris. “It’s an ugly four letter word and it’s called work.”
Said Vazquez: “This is a definite wake up call for our team. It’s a chance for us to see what we got, and now we have to work on it.”
UM starter Kiki Bengochea fell to 0-2 to open the season. Bengochea pitched well until the sixth inning when he was lit up by Gator catcher Brian Rose. Rose hit a two-run homer over the left field fence putting the gators up 3-0 in the sixth. A lack of run support continued to haunt the UM ace.
He isn’t the only one.
UM only plated four runs on Friday night vs. the Gators until a last minute bottom of the ninth rally brought in five more.
It was too little too late as the ‘Canes lost 12-9 and fell below .500 for the first time on this still very young season.
The ‘Canes will try to work out some of their problems next weekend when the University of Minnesota comes to town for a three game series.
The games will be played on Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon at Mark Light Stadium.