Tommy Mace during the Gators' game against the Florida State Seminoles on Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. / UAA Communications photo by Adler Garfield

Mace, Hickey Lead Gators to Baseball Season Opening Win Over Miami

Two hours and 42 minutes. That is how long it took before the delayed opening of the Florida baseball season finally began.  Last season, the Gators pulled off a three-game sweep over the Miami Hurricanes. This weekend, the number one ranked Gators started that possibility again with a 7-5 win over Miami in the first game ever played at the new Florida Ballpark.  Tommy Mace led the way on the mound while catcher Nathan Hickey led the way at the plate.

Hickey hitting homers

Hickey started off the scoring. On the first pitch of his at bat off Miami starting and losing pitcher Daniel Federman, he launched a fastball just over the low wall in right field.

The Gator bats stayed quieted until the fifth inning but with the bases loaded and one out, Hickey struck again.  He launched a drive deep into the right field corner, smacking just barely fair, for a ground rule double that drove in two runs.

“Under those light especially, it was unreal,”  Hickey said about the atmosphere on the field.

On the hill

Tommy Mace started for the Gators on the mound and ran into some trouble in the second and third innings while giving up a run. After getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the third, the junior right-hander settled into the game. He would conclude his season debut in the fifth inning with eight strikeouts on a 90 pitch performance, with 56 of those pitches thrown for strikes.

At the plate

Despite nearly a year of rest, the Gator bats are very much alive. Hickey contributed the first three runs, but he was not alone. Shortstop Josh Rivera blasted a triple, and Kendrick Calilao singled to extend the Florida lead to five. Scoring did not stop there for the Orange and Blue as Kris Armstrong blasted a two-run homer to extend the Gator lead to 7-1 in the top of the eighth. Overall, Florida put up 11 hits.

Shaky ninth inning

Florida’s bullpen was solid but it fell into some trouble late.  Christian Scott, who took over after Mace, gave up no runs through three innings. Freshmen Chasen Centala would come on in the ninth inning and the young righty allowed a single and two walks to load the bases. Gator coach Kevin O’Sullivan promptly went to the bullpen again selecting Ben Specht to get out the jam. Christian Del Castillo doubled to make the score 7-3.

The third and final pitcher of the ninth inning Franco Aleman, would finish the game as the Hurricanes scored twice more but fell short of getting the win.

Saturday at 1 pm, the Gators host the Hurricanes for the second game of the three-game series.

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