The Miami Hurricanes dropped to 5-1 on the season after a tough loss to the Florida Gators Saturday evening. After the game the series sits at a 1-1 tie, and a rubber game is set for tomorrow.
The game started out as a pitcher’s duel. Things stayed relatively quiet until the top of the fourth, when the benches cleared after Ray Gil grounded into a double play. Apparently the Florida shortstop didn’t like Alex Toral’s slide into second, and things got a little intense between the two teams.
However, the benches clearing didn’t lead to any immediate offense for either team. No one would score until the top of the sixth. With two outs Adrian Del Castillo was hit by a pitch and Alex Toral walked to give Miami two men on with two outs. Ray Gil then came to the plate and launched a moonshot to left field to give Miami a 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth UF got one back on a sac-fly, but Chris McMahon appeared to still be in control. However, things really unraveled with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. McMahon had gotten the first two outs of the inning with ease, but walked the third batter. Inexplicably, Gino DiMare pulled McMahon in favor of freshman JP Gates. Gates couldn’t hit the strike zone, and walked the bases loaded with Wil Dalton coming to the plate. Dalton gave a ball a ride to right center field, ending up at third on the play and making the game 4-3 in the process, but the Gators weren’t done in the inning. Kendrick Calilao followed with an RBI double that made the game 5-3. JP Gates was finally pulled in favor of Tyler Keysor after allowing those four runs, and Keysor quickly got the third out to end the nightmare.
Things got even worse for UM in the bottom of the eighth. Keysor began to struggle, two singles gave UF runners on the corners with no outs, and after a steal there were two men in scoring position with no outs. A walk loaded the bases, and that was it for Keysor, as Mark Mixon came in hoping to limit the damage. For a moment it seemed like Mixon might get out of the half inning when he got a strikeout for the first out, but a two RBI single off the bat of Brady McConnell ended those hopes. Another hit made the game 8-3, and yet another hit after that one pushed the score to 9-3 before the inning mercifully ended.
This was a terrible way to lose for the Hurricanes, and an incredibly tough loss for a young team to swallow. The third game of the series feels like a must win game, or Miami has blown an incredible opportunity to beat UF in a series for the first time since 2014.
Some of the decisions made tonight were inexplicable. It was one of the first decisions that Gino DiMare has gotten wrong so far in his career, but his choice to pull Chris McMahon out of the game was extremely poor. McMahon had been dominating all night, keeping UF batters off balance throughout the game. Not to mention the fact that the strike zone had been inconsistent all game due to the umpire behind the plate. Then, to put JP Gates in without another arm ready to go, when Gates is a true freshman with only one inning under his belt, was even worse. You can’t afford to expose members of your pitching staff like that, especially not your closer. If they lose their confidence after an outing like that, it’s unclear when, if ever, they’ll get it back during the season.
Fortunately tomorrow is a new day. Miami swung the bat pretty well on Friday and Saturday, and hopefully that can turn into more offensive production on Sunday. Meanwhile, Brian Van Belle will hope to repeat his performance from last Sunday against Rutgers against Florida.
Winning Pitcher: Tommy Mace (2-0, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K)
Losing Pitcher: JP Gates (0-1, 0.0 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 0 K)
Save: Nolan Crisp (3)
Date & Time: Sunday, February 24, 1:00 P.M. Eastern
Hurricanes Starter: Brian Van Belle (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Florida Starter: Jack Leftwich (1-0, 1.50 ERA)
Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM
Television: SEC Network+