It was an old fashioned pitchers' dual through 6 1/3 between Ball and Miami starter Carlos Gutierrez (3-1) as neither team had an answer offensively. In fact, the Gators managed only four hits off of Gutierrez, and were unable to punch one through on relievers Danny Gil, Andrew Lane, and Raudel Alfonso. However, Gutierrez struggled at times with location, allowing five walks.
"I am extremely proud of the way our guys competed and showed great field presence," said head coach Pat McMahon. "From an offensive perspective, we battled pitch counts throughout the game and were able to manufacture two runs without a hit. Bryan (Ball) was outstanding and provided valuable senior leadership to begin the series."
The Canes got on the scoreboard first. Third baseman Danny Valencia lifted a single into right field with one out in the bottom of the second. He moved to second on Tommy Giles ground out and scored when designated hitter Dennis Raben ripped a double down the left field line.
Florida finally answered in the top of the sixth. Gutierrez walked catcher Brian Jeroloman on a full count pitch. Valencia made the Canes first mental mistake when he attempted to throw Jeroloman out at second on Brandon McArthur's sacrifice bunt. Both runners were safe and Jeroloman later scored on Gavin Dickey's fielder's choice to tie the score at 1-1.
Ball promptly sent the Hurricanes down in the bottom half of the inning and the Gators had obviously gained some much needed momentum.
With Florida skipper Pat McMahon smelling blood, centerfielder Chris Woods tried to get on with a leadoff bunt, but grounded the ball right to first baseman Yonder Alonso who made the play unassisted. The Miami starter then began to melt down mentally. Gutierrez then unexpectedly walked shortstop Adam Davis on four consecutive pitches. Davis moved to second on the pitcher's wild pitch. He issued a free pass to Brian Leclerc on a full count before being pulled by Miami Coach Jim Morris.
Morris went to the experienced Danny Gil, who hit first baseman Matt LaPorta on the arm to load the bases with only one out. Jeroloman followed with a bouncer to second that enabled Davis to score what would be the winning run.
McMahon went to southpaw Stephen Porter in the bottom of the eighth inning. Porter struck out leadoff hitter Blake Tekotte to start the inning. He issued a walk to second baseman Jemile Weeks. But, two batters later Weeks drifted off of first too far and was caught in a rundown by McArthur. Another Miami mental mistake.
The Hurricanes attempted a rally in the bottom of the ninth that was thwarted by two final mental errors.
Alonso led off the inning with a single to right field. Morris went to the bench and replaced Alonso with pinch runner Nick Frietas. He attempted an ill advised steal on one of the finest defensive catchers in the country with none out. Porter walked Valencia on a full count to give the Canes yet another baserunner. McMahon stayed with Porter to pitch to lefty Tommy Giles. Giles bounced a single into centerfield and the Canes had runners on the corners.
McMahon went to sidearm closer Darren O'Day to secure the final two outs. Morris opted to pinch hit with Roger Tomas, who bounced a 2-1 pitch right to Brandon McArthur, who picked the ball up, tagged Giles and threw on to first just getting Tomas to end the game. Giles didn't even attempt to evade McArthur on the play. BMac was seemingly surprised that he didn't have to move. The runner ran right to him.
Leclerc and Jeroloman both went two for four and were the only Florida players to record a hit. O'Day picked up his first save of the young season.
The teams will square off for game two of the series tomorrow at 1pm. The Gators are expected to throw right hander Bryan Augenstein (1-0) against Miami southpaw Manny Miguuelez (1-0).