As fans pack the stands at Alex Rodriguez Park for another Friday night game, they may just feel a little bit different considering the opponent.
Miami baseball will host Florida in a three-game series this weekend. The two teams have a long-standing and competitive rivalry. Of the 252 games played on the diamond between the two schools, UM is 128-123 with one tie.
“First of all, we know it’s going to be a packed house, it should be a packed house, sold out crowds every game,” DiMare said. “It’s always a great rivalry playing those guys and it’s a great opportunity for our players early in the season to play a team that’s ranked higher than us … You want to make sure the guys are calm and they’re going to be juiced up. Everybody’s going to be jacked up in the fact that it’s [an in-state] rival and ranked teams, which there normally are. It’s a big series.”
Miami (7-1) enters its annual rivalry series in a hot stretch, with its best start to a season since 2013. The Hurricanes won five straight victories to begin the season and only lost once to Harvard 11-6 on Feb. 25.
Through eight games, Miami pitching is combining for a 2.25 team ERA, which ranks fourth lowest in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Pitchers have struck out 96 batters and allowed just 26 walks.
Nonetheless, Miami has switched up its starting rotation. Expected ace Alejandro Rosario has taken the mound twice, and in nine innings of work, the sophomore has surrendered 10 earned runs, more than any other pitcher on the roster.
“We are going to go with [Carson] Palmquist on Friday. We are going to sit Rosario,” DiMare said. “Karson Ligon is going to go Saturday, and then Sunday will be Jake Garland.
Meanwhile, Miami’s hitters have had plenty of success. In five games, the Hurricanes have plated at least 10 runs.
Individually, sophomore first baseman CJ Kayfus has led the team in hits with 12. The Canes also have four players with nine hits, and Jacob Burke leads the team with 11 RBI’s. Burke has also produced a couple of home runs, similar to Lorenzo Carrier who has two himself.
“[Burke has] been great,” DiMare said. “He’s a dynamic player, he’s an exciting player, probably one of the toughest kids on our team.”
Florida (8-2), through its own non-conference schedule so far, has bounced back from two straight losses to Liberty with seven straight victoires. Just last game, the Gators showed off their scoring abilities, tallying a 17-0 victory against Florida A&M.
Sterlin Thompson, a sophomore outfielder, has hit .425 and notched 13 RBI with five home runs in 10 games, leading the way for Florida.
UF’s pitching has delivered a 2.3 team ERA. Left-handed starter Hunter Barco, who will start versus Palmquist Friday, has allowed one of the Gators’ 23 earned runs, but the team has struck out 107 batters and walked 33. During the seven-game win streak, Florida has only allowed 10 runs aside from the Southeastern Conference’s leader in innings pitched (90).
“They will have a lot of good arms, a lot of pro arms, a lot of high velocity guys. We got to make sure we get prepared for those guys,” DiMare said.
Outside of the chalk on the field, the best development of the series may be the fact that fans will be welcomed back to the stadium for the big rivalry series. Though the teams were able to compete in 2021, it was under the blight of the pandemic and fan attendance was a rarity. In 2020, Hurricanes fans packed Mark Light Field, but it was hard to feel good about the series as shortly after baseball would be canceled.
“Having the fans back has been unbelievable. You can feel it, it means a lot more,” DiMare said. “All of us, coaches and players, really appreciate them coming out and supporting us.”
After what is expected to be an exciting weekend for the Hurricanes, Miami will turn around for a Tuesday matchup against FIU, their first on the road, before beginning ACC play on March 11 at home versus Boston College.