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7 March 2010

Miami falls to Florida, fails to redeem reputation against rival

Harold Martinez, the potential go-ahead run, strikes out leaving 2 men stranded on base. Hurricanes lost the game 4-2 and the series 2-1. Steven Stuts//The Miami Hurricane

The Miami Hurricanes entered this weekend’s blockbuster series against in-state rival University of Florida determined for revenge. They left with only more disappointment.

After dropping two of three weekend games to the Gators, the same team that ended Miami’s playoff run last season, the Hurricanes raised serious question marks about the ability of their offense to produce as conference play looms.

Head coach Jim Morris shuffled the Hurricanes’ pitching rotation for the series, giving Chris Hernandez the opening start in order to rest junior lefty Eric Erickson’s tight arm. Hernandez pitched effectively in his first Friday night start of the season, but the entire Hurricane offense was notably absent in the 7-1 loss. Miami hitters recorded a combined two hits and 15 strikeouts.

Hernandez, who ended his own disappointing sophomore campaign with an ugly regional performance against the Gators, pitched a solid six innings for the Hurricanes. The Miami native allowed only three earned runs and struck out eight Florida batters.

“They were hitting good pitches. If we make a play here or there, it’s a different game,” Hernandez said.  “But that’s the way the ball game goes.”

The Hurricane batters temporarily woke up from their slumber for the second game of the series, leading the way to a 9-6 win on Saturday night. As he has done on countless occasions so far this season, junior outfielder Chris Pelaez jump-started the Hurricanes with a key hit.

Pelaez crushed his third home run of the year on a hanging curveball from Gator starter Brian Johnson to give the Canes a 1-0 advantage in the second inning.

“We felt today we really needed to swing,” Pelaez said. “Coming up against a great team, you really need to score runs.”

Sophomore Nathan Melendres hit a pinch-hit three-run homer run in the sixth inning after replacing an ineffective freshman Michael Broad. Senior closer David Gutierrez recorded his third save of the season on 1.2 innings of shutdown pitching.

Just as soon as the Canes’ hitters had awoken, they went right back to sleep for the Gators’ 4-2 win in the rubber match of the series.  The Canes managed only four hits on the afternoon and, despite three Gator errors, could not capitalize on their chances.

“We gotta do a better job of swinging the bat against their fastball guys,” Morris said.

Canes lefty Eric Erickson allowed five hits and three runs in just over three innings of work Sunday afternoon.

“We had a pitch limit of sixty on him,” Morris said of Erickson. “It was good to see him back out there pitching.”

The Hurricanes travel to Orlando Tuesday night to play UCF at 6:30 p.m. All baseball games can be heard on WVUM 90.5 the Voice.

Camron Ghorbi may be contacted at cghorbi@themiamihurricane.com.