Ask any Miami Hurricane baseball player how it felt to get swept by Florida at home last season and they will all tell you the same thing.
“That was the worst feeling ever,” said Adrian Del Castillo about last year’s series. “It was a terrible feeling going back inside the locker room, and I just want to reverse that, and hopefully we can do that this year.”
Miami, ranked from as high as No. 6 to as low as No. 21, will get a chance at redemption in the opening series of the 2021 season when they take on the No. 1 Florida Gators at their new ballpark in Gainesville, Florida.
Under normal circumstances, Miami gets the chance to play an opening weekend series before facing the Gators, but because of COVID-19, they will open their season on Feb. 19 at 3 p.m. against the preseason best team in the country. It will also be the first time in at least 20 years that Miami opens its season on the road.
“Florida has been a pretty good program for a long time, it’s not just that they are doing it to Miami, they are doing it to everybody,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said on Florida’s dominance. “This is going to be a great test right out of the gate. This is going to be a good test for us. The national championship game isn’t going to be played on Friday night.”
The Gators return the majority of their starting lineup, including their two ace starting pitchers in Jack Leftwich and Tommy Mace, both right-handed pitchers. Mace posted a 3-0 record through 27 innings pitched, with a 1.67 ERA, while Leftwich went 2-0 through 21.2 innings with a 4.15 ERA. Florida also returns its top hitter in Jud Fabian, a likely top 2021 MLB Draft pick and Golden Spikes Award candidate. Fabian, a center fielder, batted .294 with a team-best five home runs and 13 RBIs. Hunter Barco will start for the Gators on Sunday. Barco posted a 2-0 record with 19.1 innings pitched and a 1.40 ERA.
“They bring high-level stuff to the table,” first baseman Alex Toral said of UF’s pitchers. “They all have high-velocity fastballs, good off-speed pitches. It’s going to be a great battle between them and our lineup.
Miami, however, has reason to be optimistic about the matchup. Despite losing all three starting pitchers from last season, the Hurricanes will rely on veteran Daniel Federman on Friday and two freshmen, Alejandro Rosario and Victor Mederos, on Saturday and Sunday.
For DiMare, the key will be the offensive output of his team.
“We gotta do a better job offensively of what we did last year,” he said. “That cannot happen if you are going to play a team like this in their new ballpark. It’s a great opportunity if we go in there and play well and hopefully win a series.”
The Hurricanes will open their season on Feb. 19 at 3 p.m. against the No. 1 Florida Gators from Gainesville, Florida, followed by a 1 p.m. matchup on Feb. 20 and the series finale at 1 p.m. on Feb. 21. Friday’s game will be broadcast on the SEC Network, and Saturday and Sunday’s game will be broadcast on SEC Network+.