Four games into a brand new season, the Miami Hurricanes are already sitting at 2-2 with the top-ranked Florida Gators headed to town this weekend. Not exactly how most would’ve drawn up the start to one final go-around for long time head coach Jim Morris, who will retire at season’s end—his 25th at “The U”.

The Canes entered the season ranked 24th in the nation and opened with their standard home series against the perennially sub-par Rutgers Scarlet Knights; as close to a scrimmage as Miami can tee up annually on opening weekend.

The theme on Friday night was understandable Morris-centric; a commemorative “Final Season” logo painted behind home plate—reminding all in attendance at The Light that a farewell tour was underway.

Senior left-hander Jeb Bargfeldt took the mound for Miami and proved effective, lasting five innings, striking out five and giving up six hits and a run, while the Canes offense scored seven runs by the bottom fo the fourth.

Daniel Federman, Michael Mediavilla and Daniel Epstein closed out the final four innings, giving up no hits and striking out four combined.

Offensively it was junior transfer and newcomer Danny Reyes who stole the show. The Miami Springs native and former Florida Gator cracked a second inning double in his first hit as a Hurricane. Three batters later, freshman first baseman Alex Toral drove Reyes home, tying the game. Redshirt freshman catcher Michael Amditis gave Miami the lead with an RBI groundout, while a sac-fly from freshman shortstop Freddy Zamora pushed the Canes lead to, 3-1 after two.

In the bottom of the third, Reyes crushed a two-run shot that scored Romy Gonzalez, pushing UM’s lead to, 5-1. Miami picked up two more in the fourth after Gonzalez drew a bases loaded walk and a sac-fly from Reyes scored Zamora a batter later.

The Canes’ offense went cold over the next four innings; six hits on the the night—the same at Rutgers—though Miami only stranded five in comparison to the Scarlet Knights leaving nine men aboard.

Frustrating as it might’ve been to not lay down a double-digit beating on Rutgers, like years passed—a reminder from Morris that youth is the name of the game with these 2018 Hurricanes.

“We started six freshmen and Reyes, who’s a rookie for us,” Morris said. “Seven out of nine players were new. That was for sure the most in my entire career, I can’t remember anything quite like that. It was fun to watch.”

Right-hander Greg Veliz took the mound for the Canes on Saturday night and the sophomore struggled early, giving up two hits and two runs—while striking out five—before getting relieved after three by r-senior and right-hander Cooper Hammond; who’s job was made easier thanks to the Miami offense.

The Canes exploded for seven runs in the bottom of the third—all occurring while Miami stayed alive with two outs. A single by Amditis was followed by a Zamora foul-out, while Willy Escala popped out after Jenkins drew a walk.

Gonzalez started the rally with a single to center that drove in Amditis and moved Jenkins to second. Reyes was then hit by a pitch, while Michael Burns singled to left—advancing to second on a throwing error that scored both Gonzalez and Jenkins; setting the stage for a three-run shot from Toral—his first as a Hurricane.

The 7-2 lead after three was pushed to 8-3 after both sides picked up a run in the fifth, but Rutgers answered with two more in the sixth, making for a tighter game down the stretch as Miami bats again froze up.

The Canes wound up stranding eight on Saturday evening, but the Scarlet Knights left a dozen—which proved to be a difference-maker in a three-run game.

Frankie Barstow and Andrew Cabezas close things out for Miami down the stretch; especially Cabezas, who entered in a two-on, one-out situation—forcing two fly balls and getting out of the inning without any damage.

Come Sunday, a frustrating mini-setback based on the caliber of opponent and fact Miami couldn’t get the sweep, after jumping out to a 5-0 lead after three. Rutgers responded with a seven-run fourth and both sides were quiet down the stretch in a 7-5 ballgame. This time around the Canes stranded seven.

Evan McKendry was on the mound in the top of the fourth, where the game fell apart—giving up a single, where the runner advanced to second on a wild pitch. From there, McKendry gave up back-to-back walks. A fielder’s choice, strikeout and a pair of singles led to a pitching change, as Rutgers tied things up, 5-5—but Daniel Federman and the Canes’ defense couldn’t get out of the inning without more damage.

After forcing a ground-out, an error led to two more runs before a fly-out ended the inning.

The Canes managed a few singles down the stretch, but offensively caved—striking out nine times over the final five innings. Insult to injured in the bottom fo the sixth when Amditis went down swinging and Toral was thrown out at second—hurting a would-be rally as the next batter Raymond Gil singled, but was thrown out when Zamora reached on a fielder’s choice, ending the inning.

Despite the loss, Miami won the series against Rutgers and prepped for a mid-week home showdown with Missouri before welcoming the top-ranked Florida Gators this weekend. One more game to break-in the new season and to get the juices flowing in front of a home crowd—and it couldn’t have gone worse.

Missouri 9, Miami 0

The Tigers attacked in the top of the fifth with a five-run effort, capitalizing on a slew of mistakes by the Hurricanes. Mediavilla made his first start of the season and looked solid for three scoreless innings, but got himself into a jam in the fourth when giving up two walks around an infield single. Matters were made worse when the senior left-hander couldn’t handle a shot back to the mound; that error plating the Tigers’ first two runs.

An RBI single, safety squeeze and single pushed the lead to 5-0 before the Canes got out of the inning.

Mediavilla lasted through an inning and a third before yielding to Federman, who lasted an inning, giving up a hit and walking one. Jeremy Cook and Hammond carried a few innings before Epstein surrender three hits and three runs in the ninth, leaving it to Daniel Rivera and Dylan Cloonan to stop the bleeding—the two combining for three based loaded walks, pushing the lead to, 9-0—where it stayed after a Gonzalez single, Toral fly-out and Gil strikeout ended the game.

Prior to that, the Canes stranded five and we’re offensive-less after the Tigers’ explosion in the fourth.

Worse than the shut-out loss; the timing. Miami has been losing the mental battle against defending national champion Florida for the better part of a decade now. Momentum was key going into this weekend’s match-up against the No. 1 Gators, who sit at 5-0 after winning a home series against Siena, while taking down Florida Atlantic and Bethune-Cookman earlier this week.

The lone upside for the Canes, regarding a recent inferiority complex against the team from up north—youth. The five newcomers, r-freshman catcher and one first-time starter who all took the field against Missouri on Wednesday; they have zero history with this rivalry against the University of Florida.

“It’s going to get tougher. It’s not going to get easier, it’s going to get tougher, as I told them in our team meeting,” Morris said this week. “We’re going to have to suck it up and get it done as a team. We have to stay together and keep working hard.

“These guys have been working hard, but they have to adjust, they have to mentally mature as a team.”

Bargfeldt will take the mound for Miami on Friday night, while Florida will throw junior right-hander Brady Singer.

First pitch is set for 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday and Saturday, with a 12:00 p.m. ET go time for Sunday’s finale.

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