The 10th-ranked University of Miami Hurricanes travel to Gainesville this weekend to battle No. 13 Florida in a three-game set beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium.
Miami (3-1) moved up two rankings in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association top 30 poll after winning three of four games against Rutgers University this past weekend.
UF (4-0) swept eighth-ranked Louisville on the weekend and blanked Eastern Michigan 12-0 on Tuesday night to move up eleven spots in the polls. For the first time since 2002, Florida swept a top 10 team.
“They’re a veteran club and have got everyone back from last year pretty much. It’s going to be a challenge,” junior shortstop Ryan Jackson said. “We don’t like the Gators and they don’t like us, but we’ll have fun.”
Since 2006, UM has lost six of nine meetings against the Gators, with seven of those contests decided by three runs or fewer.
“For me, it’s the toughest place we have to play if you look at the record,” head coach Jim Morris said. “We’ve always played the Gators early. It lets you know what you have to work on and it brings out your weaknesses. You can practice all you want, but when you go on the road against a very talented club, it’s going to answer questions.”
The Hurricanes must work on their fundamentals defensively; the margin of error is much smaller against a strong team like Florida. The Canes made four errors in each of their last three games and finished the four-game series with 13 mishaps.
“Some plays just should’ve been caught and made, but that’s just repetition and repetition,” Jackson said. “It was more of just nerves and excitement than anything. I think you’ll see a better defensive performance this weekend.”
A couple of newcomers got their UM careers off to great starts: junior second baseman Scott Lawson, freshman infielder Harold Martinez and freshman center fielder Nathan Melendres combined to hit .404 with 11 RBIs and 10 runs.
“I think it went really well. I got the first jitters out of the way so now I can just relax and play and hopefully continue my success and build off my first weekend,” Lawson said.
Sophomore catcher Yasmani Grandal continued his hot hitting from the end of last season by going four for seven with two home runs and six walks. Jackson, a Preseason All-American, began the season zero for six before falling a home run shy of the cycle in Sunday’s 18-9 victory.
Florida’s three stars – sophomore third baseman Josh Adams, junior outfielder Matt den Dekker and senior right hander Patrick Keating – must be contained. All were named to the 2009 Wallace Watch List, the award given at the end of the year to the nation’s top collegiate player.
“You wouldn’t expect [the Gators] to make many mistakes. They’re a solid club and that’s a big advantage with a bunch of rookies [for our team] running around there,” Morris said. “Florida has a very talented team and they’re a club that is hard to beat.”
Saturday’s game begins at 2 p.m. and Sunday’s at noon. All games can be heard on the flagship station for Hurricanes baseball, 90.5 FM WVUM.