Matchup between Canes, Gators to play important role in season

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The No. 6 Hurricanes will play a three-game home series against the No. 1 Florida Gators this weekend. It’s a rare early-season matchup for two top-10 teams, and the Canes will attempt to exact revenge on the Gators after they knocked the Hurricanes out of the College World Series last June. The series will be a tough challenge and a good measuring stick for this year’s group.

At first glance, Florida’s roster appears to have no area of weakness, as this team of Gators has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talent. Perhaps the team’s greatest strength is its pitching rotation. The Gators have four quality starters in Logan Shore, A.J. Puk, Alex Faedo and Dane Dunning. Shore, a junior righty on the mound and Florida’s No. 1 starter, is coming off an incredible season in which he captured 11 wins and posted a 2.72 ERA. Even more impressive was his 5-0 record in the postseason, including two wins in the College World Series.

The most remarkable thing about this rotation is that the guy behind Shore, junior lefty Puk, is actually slated by many scouts as the top prospect in the upcoming MLB draft. Puk is a 6-foot-7 behemoth with a powerful fastball that helped him record nine wins as a starter for Florida last season. The Canes (4-0) will have to face both pitchers on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday, which will provide the offense with an enormous challenge after struggling at times during last weekend’s Rutgers series.

The Gators will also challenge Miami’s pitching as their lineup features nine guys who can all get it done at the plate. Sophomore catcher JJ Schwarz and junior first baseman Peter Alonso anchor the lineup in the three and four spots. Schwarz is a power hitter who carried the Gators last year, belting 18 home runs and driving in 73 RBI in his debut season.

Alonso will look to get back to form after an injury-plagued sophomore campaign. He emerged as one of the key pieces in the Florida lineup during his freshman season, in which he garnered Freshman All-SEC honors. This combo in the heart of Florida’s lineup is arguably the most feared in the country and will test Miami’s pitching over the weekend.

This upcoming series certainly won’t define the season for this Miami team, but it will give the Canes a good idea of what they need to do to get back to the College World Series this summer.

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