Miami suffered their first loss of the season Friday night, dropping their series opener against the No.2 Florida Gators 2-1.
The game was dominated by pitching to start. Through four innings Tommy Mace and Brian Van Belle exchanged 1-2-3 frames and shut down each other’s lineup.
However, in the top of the fifth Van Belle ran into trouble. An infield single started the inning, and then bad defense on a sac-bunt allowed the batter to reach to put two men on with nobody out. Van Belle then walked Nathan Hickey to load the bases. A lineout to shortstop Anthony Vilar got the first out of the inning, but UF scored a run on the play when Vilar overthrew second trying to get a double-play. Fortunately Van Belle and Miami then got out of the inning with a double-play to Ray Gil.
Miami tried to respond in the bottom of the frame. Gabe Rivera reached with one out on an error by Florida shortstop Josh Rivera, and JP Gates followed him with a walk. Tony Jenkins then advanced both to scoring position with a groundout, but the ‘Canes missed the chance to score when Tyler Paige struck out to end the inning.
Brian Van Belle responded well in the top of the sixth after allowing the run, working a 1-2-3 inning and picking up his eighth strikeout of the night. Miami took advantage of an opportunity to tie in the bottom of the sixth. A lead-off double from Jordan Lala gave Miami a runner in scoring position, and he advanced to third on a wild pitch. After Adrian Del Castillo was intentionally walked Ray Gil hit a liner to center for a sac-fly that tied the score at 1-1 after six.
Florida had a chance to respond in the top of the seventh. Florida got two runners on through an error and a single, but Van Belle worked out of the jam by forcing a strikeout and a pop-out. The seventh was Van Belle’s final inning, and the senior was great, working seven one-run innings and striking out nine.
Both bullpens settled in afterwards, each worked well and neither team could score before the end of the ninth and the game headed to extras tied at one.
In the top of the tenth Florida nearly took the lead. JP Gates got the first two outs of the inning with ease and was then removed after throwing two great innings of relief. Daniel Federman then entered the game. He allowed a two-out double, but avoided disaster by getting a flyout to right to end the inning.
Miami also had a chance to score in the inning. JP Gates roped a single to center to lead off the inning, and Chet Moore pinch ran for him at first. Tony Jenkins then put down a beautiful bunt and the throw from Florida reliever Ben Specht hit him in the back on the way to first base. For a moment it looked like Miami would have runners on the corners, but the umpires called interference on Jenkins and called him out, moving Moore back to first. The call was very controversial, and ended up being the difference in the game. Tyler Paige and Jordan Lala then couldn’t advance the runner and the game remained tied heading to the 11th inning.
In the top of the eleventh the Gators took the lead. Back-to-back singles gave the Gators runners on the corners with one out. Federman got a huge strikeout to get two outs in the inning, but an RBI-double down the line from Jacob Young put Florida up 2-1.
In the bottom of the inning Miami had a chance to tie but fell short. Anthony Vilar worked a lead-off walk, but Adrian Del Castillo, Ray Gil, and Alex Toral all couldn’t do anything to drive him in and Miami lost the first game of the series 2-1.
The Hurricanes will try to get back even in the series tomorrow at 7 p.m.
Winning Pitcher: Ben Specht (1-0, 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K)
Losing Pitcher: Daniel Federman (0-1, 1.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K)
Save: Nick Pogue (1)
(Box score posted when available)
Vs No.2 Florida Game 2
Date & Time: Saturday, February 22, 7:00 P.M. Eastern
Hurricanes Starter: Chris McMahon (1-0, 3.00 ERA)
Florida Starter: Jack Leftwich (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM / 990 AM Unanimo Deportes
Television: ACC Network Extra