All No. 22 Miami needed was a two-run rally against No. 14 Florida entering the final inning.
But before the Hurricanes could attempt a late comeback and make up for their early defensive mistakes, the middle of the Gators’ lineup exploded for a five-run ninth inning and an 8-1 victory in Game 2 at Mark Light Field.
“We didn’t play defense, that’s what hurt us tonight,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said. “If we played defense, it should have been a 1-0 game going into the ninth and we’re bringing in our closer. But it didn’t work out that way, we didn’t play the defense we needed to.”
Two fielding errors in the first three innings cost Miami as Florida gained a 3-0 lead in the third. Gators leadoff hitter Colby Halter doubled and scored on an error by catcher Maxwell Romero Jr. for the game’s first run.
Miami freshman Karson Ligon settled in after allowing a two-run home run in the third, retiring 12 of the next 13 Florida batters while tying a career-high eight strikeouts.
“My changeup, that’s usually what I go to. And tonight, that was working for me pretty heavily,” Ligon said. “I lost feel for my fastball for a little bit there and I was relying on my changeup a lot more than I wanted to, but it ended up working out.”
Florida starter Brandon Sproat allowed a two-out double to third baseman Yohandy Morales in the first and back-to-back walks in the third.
The right-hander continued to deal, however, holding Miami (8-2) to 2-of-13 with runners on base. Seven Hurricanes were left on base, while UM went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
“I thought he attacked the lower point of the strike zone, from my point of view,” DiMare said. “Definitely the velocity was up there. He was throwing hard, the ball was getting on you and he kept the ball down. He was able to mix in some breaking balls to keep you honest. He just went after hitters, he was very aggressive.”
Leading 3-1 in the ninth, the Gators flashed their hitting repertoire. With two runners aboard, catcher BT Riopelle lined an RBI single to right field and shortstop Josh Rivera followed with an RBI sacrifice bunt.
And then, Florida (9-3) blew the game open.
First baseman Kendrick Calilao blasted a three-run home run off Miami reliever Alejandro Torres for his first of the year. Reliever Nick Ficarrotta, Florida’s only arm out of the bullpen, retired the Hurricanes in order, sealing Miami’s series-evening loss.
Sproat moved to 2-1 with the win, while Ligon fell to 1-1.
Miami returns to battle Florida in the series’ rubber game Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for noon.
“We just didn’t seem to make the adjustments. At times, we did a little bit but at the end of the day, we weren’t able to put enough together,” DiMare said. “[The Gators] were kind of too sporadic throughout our lineup. We struck out way too many times, we didn’t walk too many times.”