Florida Gators baseball. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

‘Canes Defeat Gators 10-6 To Even Series

After the No. 4 Florida Gators smashed three home runs to secure a 7-3 win Friday, it was the Miami Hurricanes’ turn in Game 2 on Saturday, launching three homers of their own en route to a 10-6 win at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables.

Jason Torres (2 for 4), Edgardo Villegas (1 for 4) and Daniel Cuvet (2 for 4) all went big fly as the Hurricanes (6-4) forced a decisive Game 3 on Sunday. 

Dale Thomas and Tyler Shelnut shined at the plate for Florida.

Thomas (2 for 3) collected four RBIs while belting a three-run homer in fifth and a sacrifice fly in the eighth after Shelnut (1 for4) lined a two-RBI double off the left field wall.

Erase the first two frames and Florida (7-3) outscores the ‘Canes 6-5 to win the ball game, but that’s not how it works and the Gators discovered a leaky hole in the bullpen that needs immediate fixing.

Bullpen Struggling to Settle In

The first inning has been a black eye for Florida’s pitching staff, as opponents have tallied 10 runs in 10 games against the Gators to start. The Gators have lost all three games when opponents score in the first inning.

After seven innings of spotless work in two previous appearances, freshman right-hander Liam Peterson (1-1) was greeted by the Hurricanes in his first inning with a three-run homer to left center by Torres, prompting an early visit from coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

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The following inning wasn’t kind either, as a two-run homer by Villegas put the Gators in a big hole early.  

“He just looked out of sorts from the beginning,” O’Sullivan said. “The pace was really slow. It didn’t look anything like the other times he had pitched this year. The positive is he came back and put three zeroes on the board after that.”

This was Peterson’s first runs given up in his freshman campaign.

Peterson fought back, however, retiring the next 10 batters, striking out seven in five innings before handing the ball to Luke McNeillie in the sixth.

Not long after, McNeillie felt the rain on a sunny day in Miami as well, with the ‘Canes tacking on four more runs off three hits in the seventh, when Cuvet belted his three-run homer.

The freshman jitters continued and the game got away in the eighth inning, with Frank Menendez being pulled after allowing two runners on nine pitches in his debut.

Grayson Smith took over and cleaned up, but the Gators are continuing to push through some growing pains with a young, inexperienced pitching staff.

Southpaw Schlesinger Dominates

It was just a bad combination for the Gators, as Miami’s starting pitcher Rafe Schlesinger, a 3/4 arm-slotted-lefty drawing Chris Sale comparisons, silenced Florida in the first half of the game while the ‘Canes offense applied pressure.

Schlesinger (2-0, 2.08 ERA) tossed 6.1 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with a career-high nine strikeouts and just two walks.

Hitting In Waves

After 12 strikeouts Friday, the Gators racked up another 10 strikeouts Saturday (third double-digit strikeout performance in four games). However, Florida still outhit Miami (9-7).

Despite the strikeout number, O’Sullivan was pleased with the hitting approach.

“It is a different look, not something you see every day, a low-angle lefty like that throwing low 90s,” he said. “Offensively, we did what we were supposed to do today. We scored six runs on nine hits against a really good starter.”

The Florida bats found some life in the fifth inning. After a throwing error from the ‘Canes infield allowed Shelnut to reach base followed by an Armando Albert walk. Thomas then erupted for a three-run shot to put the Gators within two runs at 5-3.

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The Gators wouldn’t strike again until scoring three runs in the eighth inning, when Shelnut lined a double off the wall to bring two more runs across. Thomas followed with a sac fly to get within three at 9-6.

The ‘Canes answered with another run and slammed the door shut in the ninth to make things interesting for these two rivals, evening the series at a game a piece.

Up Next

The rubber match starts at 1 p.m. Sunday on ACC Network Extra and ESPN Gainesville 98.1-FM/850-AM WRUF.

The Gators seek a crucial series win to stay within the top-10 in the rankings, while the Hurricanes look to build momentum and break into the rankings after a slow start to the season.

Sunday’s tie-breaker features a southpaw battle. Jac Caglianone (0-0, 9.00 ERA) takes the mound for the Gators and undefeated Herick Hernandez (2-0, 0.00 ERA) gets the call for the Hurricanes.

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