#9 Miami Set To Battle Rival Gators

The Miami Hurricanes baseball team had a very successful opening weekend as they swept the visiting Cincinnati Bearcats. The team had all around success against Cincinnati and is looking to continue that this weekend against the Florida Gators.

"The first weekend, the thing I liked in particular was our pitching and our defense," Head Coach Jim Morris said. "Our strength is supposed to be our hitting, which I still think our hitting is very good, but the pitchers pitched very well and the bullpen was outstanding."

Florida (5-0) comes in after beating Eastern Michigan in a double header on February 27th. Before their sweep against the Eagles, the Gators hosted Siena for a three game series that the Gators swept.

Florida has been successful so far under new coach Kevin O'Sullivan but have yet to be tested as Eastern Michigan is 0-6 and Siena is 0-3. That should change this weekend as they face the nationally ranked Hurricanes.

"They're a feisty type club that's going to try to bunt and run a lot," Morris said. "They don't have as much power as normal. They've got a new coach and because of that we're not exactly sure what to expect from them coming in here. There are a lot of unknowns. It's going to be interesting to see but I expect to see a lot of the same tendencies that I saw from him at Clemson."

The series is always a fan favorite as the two teams are bitter rivals. Last season, Miami lost the first two games against Florida and won the third.

"I think both teams will be confident right now," Morris said, "Coming into this weekend, Florida is 5-0 and we're 3-0. It's always a good weekend. There are always a lot of Gator fans along with the Miami fans. I think all three games will be sold out. It will be a lot of fun and hopefully we'll win."

Pitching was the Hurricanes downfall in last year's meeting as the Canes allowed 24 runs over three days while producing 17. This year, Miami has been stellar on the mound so far.

"The pitching was unbelievable," first baseman Yonder Alonso said. "That will be great for us especially at the end of the year. If that holds up I think we'll be fine. Chris did well. Erickson threw awesome. Enrique threw great as well. I feel if we have good pitching we're going to be fine."

On Friday night, Miami will send lefty Eric Erickson to the mound to square off against sophomore Kyle Mullaney.

Erickson had an excellent performance in his first outing of the season. He allowed one run over six innings while striking out six on his way to his first victory of the season.

For Mullaney, Opening Night may be a game he hopes to forget. The right-hander allowed five runs in three innings against Siena.

Friday night's game should be special for Miami starter Eric Erickson. The sophomore southpaw will be facing his former high school catcher Hampton Tigner for the first time in his career.

"Last year, he was on deck when I was pitching but I ended the inning so I never got to face him," Erickson said. "It's going to be fun to see him out there. We played high school together and we were friends in high school. It will be cool."

Saturday night the Canes will start senior right-hander Enrique Garcia while the Gators will send Patrick Keating to the mound.

Garcia took a no decision in his first outing. The senior fireballer allowed one run over four innings of work while striking out six against Cincinnati.

Keating was successful in his first appearance. The junior right-hander threw five and a third innings of shut out ball while striking out four Siena Saints.

Sunday features a match-up of promising freshmen. For Miami, lefty Chris Hernandez will toe the rubber opposite Florida right-hander Tommy Toledo.

Hernandez had a fantastic Hurricanes debut. The young left-hander threw six shut out innings and struck out eight Bearcats while allowing three hits on the way to his first career win.

"I was very impressed with Chris," Erickson said. "He came out and threw a good game against Cincinnati. He's going to be challenged with some better teams coming up as we all are. Our pitching just needs to show some consistency. That will get us a lot of wins."

Toledo, a 3rd round pick by San Diego in the 2007 MLB draft, was victorious as well in his collegiate debut. The 6'3" right-hander allowed two runs over five innings of work while fanning five Siena players.

The Hurricanes have a highly potent lineup loaded with talented hitters. So far, Miami has been led by shortstop Ryan Jackson. The sophomore is hitting .500 with three doubles and a triple in 10 at bats. Jackson also had success in the exhibition Tuesday against the Florida Marlins going three for four with three doubles.

"He had a very good fall," Morris said. "He led our team in hitting this fall. It's great to see him swinging the bat well."

Sophomore Mark Sobolewski and freshman Joey Terdoslavich have also been terrors at the plate. The Sarasota natives are hitting .385 and .333 respectively. Sobolewski has two doubles and two runs batted in over 13 at bats. Terdoslavich has started his career off with a bang. The young switch hitter led off his Hurricanes career with a single and an RBI.

Pre-season All America Yonder Alonso is looking forward to the opportunity to play against the in-state rival Gators.

"It's a chance to put our names out there," first baseman Yonder Alonso said. "If we could win the series or get a sweep, it would be great. I'm sure they will be ready for us and we'll be ready for them. We'll see what happens. They're a good team. They've got good pitching and good hitting. They always play us well. We're going to be ready for them and we'll see what happens."

The Gators are offensively by sophomore Cole Figueroa. The left-handed hitting shortstop was named a Freshman All-American last season and is currently hitting .533 with two doubles and six RBI in 15 at bats.

Senior infielder Brandon McArthur has also been successful at the plate. The former second baseman is now playing first base and is producing like a corner infielder. He is hitting .500 with two doubles, a triple, and nine RBI in the first five games.

Sophomore outfielder Jonathan Pigott and freshman infielder Josh Adams are also hitting well. Pigott is hitting .500 while Adams has been a powerful force for Florida hitting two home runs and driving in ten runs in five starts.

Coach Morris feels both teams will have to step it up in order to be successful this weekend.

"They haven't seen our pitching and we haven't seen their pitching," Morris said. "It will be a bit more of a challenge for them hitting wise and defensively just like it will be for us. Florida's got a really good club and they always have a lot of very good players."

Miami's players are anxious to get the weekend series and are looking forward to a successful performance.

"We're excited about playing against UF," freshman Chris Hernandez said. "I'm excited about it. We just want to go out there, win, and dominate the series."

Notes

- Head Coach Jim Morris expects Dennis Raben to play this weekend. He said Raben has been practicing and swinging the bat without pain and anticipates that he will play Friday night.

- Raben had this to say about his injury and his current status.

"As of right now, I think were just taking it day to day and seeing how I feel. Lately I've been feeling pretty good. I hit BP a couple times in the past couple days. If I'm ready to go, I'm going to get some at bats and get in there."

"The coaches have been real cool about it. They're not trying to rush me back. We know that every game is important but the second half of the season and ACC play is the most important thing of the year. They've been telling me not to rush it. They don't want me to come back too early and have another set back but its tough being in the dugout and watching everyone else play so I want to get out there as soon as possible."


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