Gators drop series opener to Miami

The Gators know the big hit is coming. They just don't know when. In a season that has already produced multiple different struggles for Florida over the first 10 games, stranding runners decided Friday night's series opener with Miami. The Gators had 15 base runners and left nine runners on base while scoring just two runs, as the Hurricanes took the series opener 3-2 at McKethan Stadium.

"We're not coming up with a big hit right now," Florida left fielder Justin Shafer said. "We can do it, but it hasn't happened lately. Hopefully we get out of it soon."

The win broke Florida's 11-game winning streak over the Hurricanes. The Gators stranded eight base runners in the first three innings alone. Miami starting pitcher Chris Diaz gave up eight hits and walked two while not allowing a run in his career-long seven innings.

The Florida offense was dormant outside of the eighth inning. Vickash Ramjit lined a one-out single down the left field line to score Zack Powers from second. With Ramjit on second and two outs, freshman outfielder hit a routine pop up to shortstop, where freshman Brandon Lopez dropped it, scoring Ramjit from second to tie the game.

It finally looked like Florida caught a break.

That changed in the ninth inning. Florida freshman right-hander Jason Carmichael was cruising through his first 2.2 innings before Chantz Mack lined a single to right field with two outs in the ninth inning. Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan picked off three times to slow Mack down before calling a pitch out and catching Mack stealing second, but sophomore catcher Taylor Gushue didn't make a good throw.

"You've got to throw somebody out on a pitch count," O'Sullivan said. "We threw over there three times. (Gushue) didn't unload the ball good. You don't see that very often — guys safe on a pitch out."

The knockout blow came right after when freshman first baseman David Thompson singled up the middle to give the Hurricanes a 3-2 lead they would hold.

After both teams went through the early innings making a habit of stranding base runners, Miami came through with a two-run home run in the fourth inning for the first career home run for senior Alex San Juan. The Miami catcher had the big hit off Florida ace Jonathon Crawford, who still wasn't his sharpest on Friday.

The junior right-hander last six innings, giving up eight hits, two runs, three walks and striking out three. He threw a career-high 103 pitches.

Crawford was outdueled by Diaz, who didn't touch 90 mph on the night but moved the ball to both sides of the plate and threw strikes.

"He threw strikes and had good movement," said Shafer, who went 3-4 at the plate. "He hit his spots and kept us off balance."

The Gators will try to take game two of the series on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Florida will send freshman right-hander Tucker Simpson to the mound. The starter needs to give the Gators a good outing, but the hitters know they need to turn it around at the plate.

"We need to put up runs," Shafer said. "More than anything as hitters, we need to just put up runs."

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