The Miami Hurricanes baseball program will officially open its 50-game regular season with a three-game series on the road against the Florida Gators, according to Miami head coach Gino DiMare.
Miami, which was swept in its weekend series as the then-No. 1 team by Florida last season, looks for redemption this February at the new Florida Ballpark in Gainesville.
“We’re opening up with Florida on the road in their new ballpark, which will be a great, great test for us and a huge challenge,” DiMare said. “They’ll probably be preseason No. 1 – they already are in a few polls – and I’m sure we’ll be ranked pretty high as we already are in a few polls.”
The Canes have earned three preseason top-25 rankings as of Monday: sixth in Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s poll, seventh on Perfect Game’s list, and 21st with D1Baseball. Florida, however, enters the spring as the consensus No. 1-ranked team this time, but that will likely not matter to Miami, as they learned last February in losing to their then-No. 2 in-state rival.
“Every game is going to be huge this year and we’ve got to be ready to play,” DiMare said. “They’re all going to be a challenge, especially with the ACC moving up from 10 to 12 series. But if we’re going to be the program that I expect us to be at Miami and if we’re going to be the top team at the end of the year, we need to be able to play well and win these games, win these series, and put ourselves in a good position to get to Omaha.”
Miami and Florida will face off on the season’s opening weekend for the 11th time in their annual rivalry series; last year, each game was decided by three runs or less, and the first two duels were extended into extra innings. The Canes still lead all-time, 130-127-1, nonetheless.
“It’s always disappointing to get swept, especially at home,” said Miami third baseman Raymond Gil after the team’s missed comeback in the series finale last season. “We felt like each game could’ve gone either way. We just didn’t get the clutch hit or make a play or put somebody away at the right moment, and they did. We have to build on that, and we have a long season.”
The Gators not only return their trio of MLB-caliber starters in Tommy Mace, Jack Leftwich, and Hunter Barco, but will once again feature the talents of right fielder Jacob Young, who recorded three hits in the series opener last February. Center fielder Jud Fabian also returns, a top-five 2021 MLB Draft prospect who sunk the Canes with a game-tying ninth-inning RBI double in Game 2 of the series.
“We had the game right there where we wanted it, ninth inning, just couldn’t close it out, couldn’t finish it,” DiMare said after the extra-inning heartbreaker that Saturday night.
Miami, which was ranked No. 1 nationally for the first time since 2016, now brings a recruiting class that has ranked as the country’s best multiple times this winter. But the Canes’ newcomers will certainly have to live up to that recognition with consistency on the field against a Florida program with some of the nation’s top veterans and a 14-year coach in Kevin O’Sullivan.
“It’s certainly nice to hear that your class is ranked No. 1 and it’s a testament to the hard work the coaches and everybody else on the staff has put in to get this class on campus, but the proof of how good this class really is will be in two or three years when these guys leave and they get drafted.”
Right-handed pitcher Victor Mederos, a Miami native out of Westminster Christian High School, outfielder Jacoby Long of Palm Beach Gardens, and others highlight all that Miami baseball aspires to construct from both a talent development and on-field success standpoint. Winning at least one in Gainesville will be a reflection of those goals.
The Hurricanes and Gators will first take the diamond at Florida Ballpark on Feb. 19, and then the following two days to round out the weekend series. Miami finished their pandemic-shortened season at 12-4, 3-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, while Florida ended at 16-1 without having played a single Southeastern Conference competition.