Showdown at ‘the Light’

The Miami Hurricanes will face their first major test of the year as the No. 1 Florida Gators travel to Coral Gables for a three-game weekend series at Mark Light Field.

Although Miami leads the all-time series between the two clubs 117-87-1, UF took last year’s meeting in Gainesville, winning the series finale 14-11. The Gators are off to a tremendous start this season, outscoring their opponents 40-8 in their first three games.

The Hurricanes will have to be ready for the bat of infielder Adams Davis, who is hitting .538 with seven runs batted in and one homerun. Outfielder Garvin Dickey is no easy out either, batting .400 with two homeruns and a perfect slugging percentage in 10 at-bats. Florida’s pitching staff is paced by 6’5″ sophomore Bryan Augenstein (1-0), an imposing presence on the mound. In his first outing, Augenstein struck nine batters. The staff ace is Bryan Ball, who also won his first start.

“I know they’re 3-0 and they beat Cincinnati pretty bad,” said UM Head Coach Jim Morris. “They’ve got a lot of guys back so they are very solid.”

With Miami’s youthful starting lineup, it is hard to predict at times how the Hurricanes will respond in different situations. Some skeptics might have thought that the long flight to California last weekend to face UCLA would leave the ‘Canes lifeless once they took the field against the Bruins. However, UM responded to a home series loss to feisty Winthrop by winning the UCLA series 2 games to 1.

Second baseman Jemile Weeks (.379), first baseman Yonder Alonso (.367) and leftfielder Blake Tekotte (.357) are three freshmen filling huge holes in the Hurricanes offense and lefty middle reliever Andrew Lane is bouncing back from a shaky few weeks in the set-up spot. Lane threw 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief in Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Bruins.

“We got a lot of young guys in the lineup,” Morris said. “I think we are playing well right now.”

Morris said the team will have to put forth their best effort of the year to beat the top squad in the nation.

“I think we played well at UCLA but we are going to have to play at another level against the Gators,” Morris said. “They have good pitching and good players and we have to respond to that; it is going to be interesting to see how we do.”

The ‘Canes and Gators face off at 2 p.m. today, 1 p.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday at Mark Light Field. All three games will be aired on WVUM 90.5 FM.

Richard Lavi