By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor
No. 20 Florida Gators baseball (5-3) fell short on the road against the No. 17 Miami Hurricanes (4-3) over the weekend, dropping the annual three-game series between the in-state rivals but ultimately avoiding a sweep on Sunday at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables, FL.
The Gators opened things up Friday night with their second loss of the season, dropping the season opener 6-4 despite scoring three runs in the first inning.
Junior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (4.0 IP, 5 H, BB, 3 K) took the loss for Florida, struggling after retiring the side in order and leaving the first inning with a three-run lead. Poyner (1-1) threw 71 pitches in the 6-4 loss and gave up home runs to Miami right fielder Willie Abreu in the third and center fielder Dale Carey in the fifth.
“We just have to get a better start out of our starting pitcher,” remarked head coach Kevin O’Sullivan after the loss.
Inside the batter’s box, junior catcher Taylor Gushue (4/4, RBI, 2 R) extended his hitting streak to six games. The four-hit game by Gushue was a career-best.
Offense was at a premium for the Gators on Saturday as UF only managed two runs in its 5-2 loss to UM. A three-run homer by Hurricanes designated hitter Zack Collins in the sixth inning ended a 2-2 stalemate and was ultimately the game-winning play.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Brett Morales (4.0 IP, 3 H, ER (2 R), 2 BB, 2 K) pitched well for Florida and left with the game knotted. Sophomore RHP Eric Hanhold (1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, BB, K) was responsible for the deciding runs in the sixth, giving up a lead-off double before sophomore LHP Danny Young (0.2 IP, H, ER, 2 K) saw his first pitch fly over the wall.
The Gators took to the diamond on Sunday hoping to avoid a sweep at the hands of their bitter in-state rivals and eventually did just that by pulling off a 6-4 win despite looking to be in trouble in the bottom of the ninth.
Redshirt junior righty Karsten Whitson (3.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, BB, K) earned the start and saw his velocity rise in his second game since undergoing shoulder surgery that caused him to miss nearly two full seasons.
Freshman lefty A.J. Puk (1.2 IP, H, ER, BB, 2 K) replaced him and saw his first action on the hill for Florida, earning his a win in relief. Puk was dominant but got pulled for freshman RHP Logan Shore but was pulled in favor of freshman right-hander Logan Shore (1.2 IP, 2 H, ER, BB, K) who gave up two hits resulting in two runs (one charged to Puk). The Gators escaped the fifth inning up 6-4 and held on for the remainder of the game with Hanhold earning his first collegiate save by tossing the final out.
UF started hot right out of the gate – scoring four runs in the first inning on six hits – and added two more in the fourth courtesy of two hits and a UM defensive miscue. Both Gushue (1/4, RBI, R) and Martin (1/5, R) extended their hitting streaks to eight games for the Gators. Florida finished with six hits on the day to help right the ship offensively and escape Coral Gables with a victory.
“[Whitson] needs to be good for us to be good – and he will – but to expect him to come out and throw seven shutout innings in his second start after missing almost two years is unrealistic,” explained O’Sullivan after the contest.
The Gators return to Gainesville, FL for a four-game home stand that is part of a non-confernece schedule-ending stretch of 12 home contests in a 13-game stretch with the only other being played in Pensacola, FL.