A sweep over the defending national champions would’ve been a dream, while taking the series against a hated rival would’ve been incredible in its own right. Instead, Miami had to hang on tight for a Sunday win and game three shutout of top-ranked Florida—which in itself felt like a huge victory as the Gators have owned the Canes for way too long.

A series finale that had Miami pitchers holding Florida to three hits—highlighted by relievers getting out of some late inning jams; the 2-0 victory was a pivotal early-season moment for a Canes squad riding a four-game losing-streak into Sunday.

Coming off a mid-week loss to Missouri; the Canes blanked, 9-0 by the visiting Tigers—one of two things was set to happen. Florida would continue their dominance, making a youthful Miami squad look like it didn’t belong on the same field—or the Canes would find a way to make a dent in a tremendously lopsided rivalry.

Thankfully the latter took place.

The Canes came out swinging on Friday night; Michael Burns opening the bottom of the first with a double to right center. One batter later, Michael Perez smashed a two-run shot over the left-field fence and just like that, Miami showed that it came to play.

Danny Reyes kept the party going with a double after Romy Gonzalez went down swinging—and found his way home courtesy of a Michael Amditis single to center. Tony Jenkins singled to right, moving Amditis to second—but the inning came to a close when Freddy Zamora hit into a fielder’s choice that led to Amditis getting thrown out at third.

The Canes stranded two in the bottom of the first; and went on to strand seven more over the course of the evening as Miami never scored again. Conversely, Florida responded with two in the top of the second and took the lead with two more in the fourth—the Gators never looking back.

Jeb Bargfeldt got the game one start for the Canes and lasted six innings, giving up nine hits and charged with five runs. The damaged started in the bottom of the second when Bargfeldt walked his first batter, Jonathan India, with a full count. Minimal damage as India was caught stealing, but Keenan Bell singled a batter later and after a fly-out, Nick Horvath homered to left and cut the Canes lead to, 3-2.

In the top of the fourth Bell singled, Blake Reese doubled to left and Horvath continued his hot streak with a double down the left field line that brought both Gators home.

Daniel Federman replaced Bargfeldt in the top of the seventh and after a three-up, three down inning for both sides, gave up two hits in the eight that led to two insurance runs for the Gators—two singles, a walk and a fly out that pushed Florida’s lead to 7-3, which ended up the final score.

Saturday night’s showdown had Greg Veliz on the mound for 5.1 innings, where the sophomore right-hander struggled early, but kept the Gators under control, barring the Canes’ offense could get something going.

Veliz surrendered a single, a pair of walks and got nothing out of a fielder’s choice when a throwing error added insult to injury, ultimately giving Florida an extra run and a 2-0 lead after the top of the first. From there, Veliz kept the road team at bay while the Miami offense couldn’t close.

The Canes stranded seven between the bottom of the first and fifth, but did manage to muster up two in the bottom of the fourth after three consecutive singles from Jenkins, Zamora and Willy Escala after Amditis flied out to start the inning.

Burns was hit by a bases loaded pitch, scoring Jenkins—but Perez killed the potential rally when hitting into a double-play facing a 1-2 count—the Canes doing enough to tie the game, but unable to seize any momentum.

Miami’s pitching held strong until the top of the sixth when Veliz was pulled after a single and triple netted another run. Cooper Hammond entered and immediately gave up another, via an errant pitch that found the backstop and helped Florida reclaim the lead—though he responded strong in the bottom of the seventh, retiring three consecutive batters in a row.

Unfortunately for the home squad, Miami was equally as inefficient in the bottom fo the sixth.

After a scoreless seventh, the Gators added to their lead with two runs in both the eighth and ninth, while Hurricane bats stayed silent. Jeremy Cook replace Hammond, surrendering two walks, a sac-fly and hitting a batter—all of which combined for two runs with that Hammond was charged with.

The Canes went six up and six down from there, rendering Florida’s two hits and runs in the ninth, pointless. Insult to injury at that point in an eventual, 8-2 loss.

Outscored 15-5 over two games at home, this was the moment where any red-blooded Canes fan expected a Sunday statement game; Florida doing what they do, while Miami falls into that submissive role that’s plagued this rivalry for well over a decade.

Just looking at the Kevin O’Sullivan era that kicked off in 2008, the Gators were 29-9 against the Canes going into this year’s series finale.

As if that record couldn’t be worse for a four-time national champion like Miami; eight of those 29 losses came in the post-season—the Canes dropping two Gainesville Regionals (2009, 2011), a Super Regional (2010) and getting run out of Omaha (2015), outscored by the Gators, 25-5 in two games. To say that mojo was on the side of that team from up north; and understatement.

Entering Sunday’s game, Florida hadn’t lost since last year’s College World Series. While the series was lost, there was still something to play for in game three—and to Miami’s credit, it did.

Evan McKendry got the finale start for the Canes; an impressive six-inning outing where the sophomore right-hander struck out eight and gave up only two hits—the first the result of infield miscommunication on a pop-up which led to a meaningless double.

Andrew Cabezas entered in the seventh and held on through the ninth, working himself out of a few nasty jams against No. 1 that will hopefully pay dividends down the road.

Nursing a 2-0 lead—courtesy of a pair of doubles in the bottom of the fifth and a two-out series where a single, walk and another single scored another—Cabezas held it together despite limited production from his offense.

After a groundout and strikeout in the top of the seventh, Cabezas walked three Gators in a row before a fly-out to center ended the inning. In the top of the eighth, a line-out and strikeout before an error allowed Wil Dalton to reach second, but a groundout resulted in the third out and stopped yet another threat.

Miami attempted to add another in the bottom of the eighth after Gonzalez singled, stole second and reached third on a Dylan Cloonan groundout—but Amditis flied out to center, ending the inning.

The Gators managed a single to open the top of the ninth, but Cabezas never flinched—striking out three in a row to close for the Canes, emphatically.

The win ended a win-streak, but more-importantly proved to be the 10th win against Florida dating back to 2008. Embarrassing as that paltry stat is, losing streaks and momentum shifts end one game at a time and for the Canes, this win over the Gators is something Jim Morris and staff need to build on with this young squad.

“It was really a big win for us, needless to say,” Morris said. “Florida has a really good club. They’re ranked number one in the country, as everyone knows. It was a tremendous challenge for us.”

McKendry—who earned ACC Pitcher of the Week honors after Sunday’s performance—echoed the sentiment.

“It was really nice. We came out well as a team, a lot of energy,” the sophomore hurler said. “We brought a lot of energy all weekend, but today especially. We needed to get this win to get us moving. It was nice.”

Necessary energy that got this squad moving. No better way to state it.

May those flowing juices carry over to Boca Raton for Wednesday’s match-up with the Owls, as well as this weekend’s home-stand against Maine.

Comments are closed.