UM/UF Baseball Series Preview

Recent history has been something the Miami Hurricanes baseball team has wanted to forget. The last three years the Florida Gators have ended the Hurricanes season.

In 2009, the Gators eliminated the Canes in a Regional in Gainesville, even after the Canes swept them in the regular season. In 2010, then in a Super Regional, the Gators sent the Hurricanes packing. And in 2011, with Miami as the 2 seed in the Gainesville regional, again Miami was sent home by their in state rivals, only to make it worse by Florida reaching the College World Series championship game.

This weekend the Miami Hurricanes (8-0) will be hosting the #1 team in the country, the Florida Gators (7-1), in a three game series. Let it be known, there is no such thing as a moral victory in Coral Gables, so anything less than a series win is unacceptable to Jim Morris' club. The Hurricanes historically are one of the top 5 programs in college baseball and led by the return of Eric Erickson and transfer Peter O'Brien the Canes are poised to return to those glory days.

The Gators return seven preseason All-Americans, including all three weekend starting pitchers and 2011 SEC Player of the Year, catcher Mike Zunino. With Florida already owning a weekend series win against perennial top 10 program, Cal St. Fullerton, the Gators come in to Coral Gables already proven. The Canes, on the other hand, with weekend series wins over Rutgers and Albany, still have much to prove on the diamond.

One story line to watch for this weekend is how the two starting rotations perform. It is widely accepted that the Florida Gators own the best weekend rotation in the entire country, but with the return of Eric Erickson, the "U" has a rotation that ranks at the tops of college baseball as well. The Gators will throw Hudson Randall, Brian Johnson and Sunday has yet to be determined because of injury to Karsten Whitson. The Canes will counter with Eric Erickson, Eric Whaley, and Bryan Radziewski.

The weekend will also feature arguably the two best catchers in all of college baseball facing off. Mike Zunino, who was the 2011 SEC Player of the Year, for the Gators and Peter O'Brien, a transfer from Bethune-Cookman, who was a third round draft pick last summer and former MEAC Player of the Year. Zunino has been battling an injury, so it will be interesting to see how that unfolds this weekend.

Although very early in the season, the Gators are hitting .298 as a team, while the Canes are at .307 as a whole. The pitching matchup is what most followers of college baseball will be looking forward to watching. The Gators come in with an overall ERA of 3.15, while Miami posts an ERA of 2.43. Again, this is extremely early in the season and the Gators have already played Cal. State Fullerton in a three game series and a UCF team with a very potent offense.

All in all this should be a great series between two premier college baseball programs. Can the Canes hold the potent offense of Florida, led by school career RBI leader Preston Tucker, Mike Zunino, and two way star Brian Johnson to minimum damage while at the same time getting enough offense against a pitching staff that is considered the best in college baseball?

Probable Starters:
Friday: Hudson Randall (1-0, 3.00 ERA) vs Eric Erickson (2-0, 0.00 ERA)
Saturday: Brian Johnson (1-0, 0.87 ERA) vs Eric Whaley (1-0, O.75 ERA)
Sunday: TBA vs Bryan Radziewski (1-0, 5.59 ERA)

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