No. 1 Gators Win Series Opener at Miami

When No. 1 Florida showed up in Coral Gables on Thursday, the coaches could tell something felt different. The intensity was ratcheted up, and the Gators were more focused for the instate rival Hurricanes. Florida carried that intensity into Friday's game and won 7-5 over No. 12 Miami in the first game of the series. The Gators have now won nine straight over Miami and 12 of the last 13 meetings.

"They did a really good job," Florida assistant coach Brad Weitzel said of the Florida players on the post game radio show. "You could tell last night when we came down here and practiced on this field that they were in a different zone—a really good, locked-in zone. I wish they could be there all the time, but when you play baseball as much as we do and the games are played all the time, it's hard to stay at that level with the intensity."

The Florida offense showed signs of its potential, scoring in five of the first six innings. They didn't do it with the normal power that usually produces the runs. Instead, they did it by manufacturing runs. Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan was upset with the situational hitting after last weekend's series win over William & Mary, but the Gators changed that on Friday.

Florida's first two runs scored on sacrifice flies by Austin Maddox and Daniel Pigott. After the Hurricanes (8-1) tied the score at two in the third inning when former Florida player Tyler Palmer homered, Mike Zunino blasted a solo home run to left-center field to put the Gators back on top.

Zunino finished the game 4-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored. He was just a triple short of the cycle. The junior catcher is now hitting .500 (15-for-30) with an on-base percentage of .556 this season.

"Our guys did a great job playing fundamental baseball—get them on, get them over, get them in," Weitzel said. "They did a good job."

Most of Florida's success came against Miami starting pitcher Eric Erickson. The senior left-hander came into the game without allowing an earned run in 13 innings pitched this season. On Friday, he allowed six runs in five innings.

The Gators (8-1) also erased some of their early season struggles against left-handed pitching with the win.

"That Erickson kid, I've seen him since I was a scout with the (Minnesota) Twins," Weitzel said. "He can really deal. He's hard to get something going on. He's hard to establish a run game. He's really good. We did a good job against him, but he battles."

Hudson Randall (2-0) started the game on the mound despite being sick in recent days. The coaches went back and forth on whether to start him on Friday or push Brian Johnson up to start the game. The junior right-hander pushed through his illness and gave Florida 5.1 innings, allowing seven hits, four runs and recording six strikeouts. He allowed just two runs in the first five innings, both coming on Palmer's home run, before he was pulled in the sixth inning.

Randall threw just 69, with 54 for strikes, pitches before he was pulled.

"Huddy was sick the past couple days—I mean really sick. His heart is just gigantic," Weitzel said. "He did a great job."

After Steven Rodriguez recorded a ground out sandwiched between two singles, Florida's lead was cut to 7-5. O'Sullivan didn't mess around. He went right to closer Austin Maddox.

In between going 3-for-3 at the plate, Maddox threw the final 3.1 innings of the game, allowing two hits and recording seven strikeouts. On the season, Maddox has now thrown 12 shutout innings and recorded 16 strikeouts. The junior has allowed six hits and still hasn't walked a batter.

"I don't think it matters if Maddox starts with zero outs," Weitzel said. "He'll get 27 (outs) for you, or if he comes in and we need nine outs, he'll get nine for you. He just pounds the ball over the plate and throws three pitches for strikes. He's a heck of a competitor and a really tough kid. He looks scary out there, actually."

The Gators will go for the series win on Saturday night at 7 p.m. Florida will send junior left-hander Brian Johnson (1-0 0.87) against Miami junior right-hander Eric Whaley (1-0, 0.75).

"We've got nine in a row, but tomorrow starts zero-to-zero," said Weitzel, referring to the nine-game win streak over Miami. "We don't get a head start or anything. We've just got to go back to work, check out some video and get ready for them tomorrow."

Fightin Gators Top Stories