Up against the Gators

Chris Pelaez runs to first base on a single against the Florida Marlins yesterday. The Marlins begin their Spring Training every year by playing the Hurricanes in an exhibition game. The Hurricanes lost 19-3. Steven Stuts//Asst Photo Editor

This weekend is rivalry weekend at the University of Miami. On Saturday at noon, the men’s tennis team opens up ACC play against Florida State at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center.

At the same time down the street, the men’s basketball squad will conclude its regular season against Florida State on Senior Day.

But all eyes will be at the corner of Ponce de Leon and San Amaro Drive beginning Friday night at 7 p.m. as the No. 10 Hurricanes (6-1) host in-state rival No. 5 Florida Gators (5-1) in a three-game series at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.

“It’s going to be a great series,” head coach Jim Morris said. “Florida has a great club and they have an outstanding pitching staff. They have a bunch of power arms. It’s going to definitely be a challenge for us. We have to be ready. They have one of their best clubs since I have been at Miami.”

The first seven games were just a fine tune up for the University of Miami baseball team. Now they must step up their game against a team who knocked them out of the postseason last year.

Miami swept the regular season series in Gainesville last year outscoring the Gators 26-8 over a 48-hour span. But the Florida Gators had the last laugh by beating UM twice in the 2009 Gainesville Regional.

Head coach Jim Morris was ejected in the first inning of the final game and was fortunate not to witness the 16-5 embarrassment.

This year is a new year for the Hurricanes. The big reason why is because junior ace Eric Erickson is back. Erickson agrees with Morris in thinking this is a talented Gator group coming to South Florida for the first weekend of March.

“I’ve been at school here the past four years and from what I hear this is the best team Florida has had since I have been here. We have got to try and sweep them,” Erickson said.

The Gators are loaded with young talent and will be ready to play, but going up against Erickson and junior left-hander Chris Hernandez will be a tall task especially for a young and inexperienced squad.

Erickson has had two strong starts and Hernandez tweaked his mechanics after his first start. A vintage Hernandez gained momentum last Saturday against Manhattan and he looks to carry that over this weekend.

Senior second baseman Scott Lawson knows this series will not only be a big litmus test to see how the Canes stack up against stout competition, but will be pivotal down the line in the future.

“It will be an exciting series to play in,” Lawson said. “This will help us prepare for [the ACC].”

Both squads are coming off tough mid-week games. Florida lost to No. 3 Florida State on Tuesday 10-5 and the Canes got crushed by the Florida Marlins Wednesday afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium 19-3 in the annul exhibition game.

Justin Antweil may be contacted at jantweil@themiamihurricane.com.

Steven Stuts contributed to this report.