On a weekend in which the Miami Hurricanes looked to prove that last year’s performance in the Gainesville Regional wasn’t a fluke, it was Mother Nature that would end up victorious.
In its first trip to McKethan Stadium since knocking the Florida Gators out of the playoffs in dramatic fashion, Miami split the first two games against its state rivals. The Hurricanes defeated UF 9-2 Friday, before falling 5-3 Saturday. However, heavy rains throughout most of Sunday morning caused officials at Florida to cancel the rubber match of the three-game series, ending the ‘Canes trip in North Central Florida with a .500 record over the course of the weekend.
Sunday’s contest came one day after the Gators evened up the series, thanks to some timely hitting, UM miscues, and a wild 7th inning. Florida put together two runs in the first three innings, scoring its first run on a wild pitch by Miami starter Vince Bongiovanni, and plating its second on a RBI double from right fielder Mario Garza.
UM pitching coach Lazer Collazo pointed to other reasons for the early ‘Gator offense.
“You never want runs to be coming from walks,” Collazo said. “I thought that had a lot to do with the loss.”
Miami bounced back from the early two-run deficit, as center fielder Danny Figueroa came home on a passed ball, and designated hitter Ryan Braun knocked Gaby Sanchez in with a single. The 2-2 score would not stand for long, as a sacrifice fly from Garza gave Florida a one run lead.
The score remained 3-2 Florida until the seventh inning that began with two one-out base runners reaching on a walk and double, respectively. Third baseman Brett Dowdy appeared to knock in both Gator base runners with a single. However, catcher Matt Cresap did not touch home plate while making the turn from third base. UF coach Pat McMahon stormed out from the dugout and after a long verbal altercation with all three umpires, was ejected.
Miami coach Jim Morris nearly shared McMahon’s fate two batters later, after coming out to argue a call in which Ben Harrison was called safe on a play from first base, which would score Dowdy.
”It’s hard to see from the dugout, but Jim Burt said he made the play,” Morris said. “I didn’t want to get Jim Burt thrown out of the game.”
Burt would add a solo home run in the top of the ninth inning, but it wasn’t enough to give Miami the victory.
“They played a better baseball game than we did,” Morris said. “They pitched better, played defense better and did a better job of swinging the bat.”
The loss dropped Miami’s record to 4-2 and followed a late inning outburst in Friday’s win. The Hurricanes scored five 8th-inning runs in the 9-2 victory, with right fielder Brian Barton providing the finishing touches with a three-run homer. Sanchez also drove in three runs for the ‘Canes, while Burt, Danny Figueroa, and Adam Ricks each had an RBI apiece.
“This has been my toughest place to play since I’ve been at Miami,” Morris said. “After we got the five-spot, we felt pretty good.”
Morris received production from both of his starting pitchers in Gainesville. Dan Touchet threw seven innings in Friday’s contest, giving up just two earned runs while striking out eight. Bongiovanni recovered from walking the first two ‘Gator batters Saturday to throw 5.1 innings of five-hit, two-run ball.
However, with San Diego State coming into town Friday, Collazo points to other areas in which he feels Miami needs significant improvement.
“Our defense hasn’t really been doing a very good job,” Collazo said. “Our relief pitching needs to get stronger if we want to go anywhere this year.”
-Jeremy Marks-Peltz can be reached at email@example.com