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Hurricanes (9-0) baseball to meet Gators (3-6) in three-game series at Gainesville

You'd have to go back three years (or almost three years) to find the last time the Miami Hurricanes baseball team defeated the Florida Gators -- March 6, 2010, a 9-6 UM victory in Coral Gables, when Miami was ranked 10th and the Gators, fifth.

Since then, 11 consecutive losses against the nemesis Gators. 

Now, the Canes, who traveled by bus to Gainesville Thursday, go into hostile territory with a 9-0 record -- while the Gators are an uncharacteristic 3-6 after an extra-inning loss to North Florida Wednesday night.

“I’m just a little disappointed,” Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said in a story on GatorZone.com. “This is not a time to panic or start pointing fingers; we just have to play better. It’s like we’re playing back on our heels a little bit, and that’s what’s disappointing. We spent a lot of time the last few days talking about that issue and we just have to play a little bit better. We’re just not playing very well and we need to get it going. We have to learn from our mistakes. We have to move on. We’re going to coach them up and be ready to play Miami.”

Meanwhile, UM coach Jim Morris is not about to apologize for an exceptional start -- even if some of those wins came in late comeback situations against teams of lesser talent or in lower divisions or from the snowy north.

"We're a pretty young club and we still have some questions to be answered,'' Morris said, "but it's a good start for us. I'm looking forward to the challenge of going up to Gainesville.''

Morris said pitchers Bryan Radziewski and Eric Whaley, who both pitched for the first time in a game Tuesday after shoulder surgery, will continue to be eased in during relief stints. 

 The coach said his team's defense has impressed him the most at this point, considering three of the players in the infield are new (first baseman David Thompson, shortstop Brandon Lopez and second baseman Alex Hernandez). He said he's also impressed with the starting rotation of Chris Diaz (1-0, 0.75 ERA), Javi Salas (2-0, 0.00) and Andrew Suarez (1-0, 1.80). 

   "Offensively,'' Morris said, "we've done a good job of doing little things to win games -- moving runners over or putting the ball in play to make things happen.''

   Morris was asked about the nine-game win streak, and how he keeps it in perspective, knowing the competition the Canes have faced and what they have ahead. The Atlantic Coast Conference schedule begins March 8 against Duke.

   "Typical games we've played,'' Morris said, "whether it's a Rutgers or FAU. The people we've played... are the same people we play every year [to begin the season].

   "That's part of getting ready, When you play an inner-squad game, it's hard to tell about your team. Everybody we face, we face their ace -- whether it's last night against Barry. We face good pitching.''

    Right fielder Chantz Mack (.303), a senior, said the Canes "really want to turn this over, get over the hump, get over this losing streak we have against Florida. ...Yesterday, after the game in the locker room we kind of talked about that we need to change things, and we're ready this year. Everyone was pumped up, everyone was riled up. We have a good winning streak going and we just want to keep it going.''

    Mack said of his team's flawless record, "People think we haven't really played anyone, but the way we've won games and the way that different people have stepped up and the trust we've begun to gain in each other -- guys you wouldn't even expect to get the clutch hit and make the big play, they're doing it -- and that's really big for our momentum, for our psyche, for our chemistry.''

  Freshman David Thompson is on a tear, hitting .323 with a team-leading 14 RBI and six doubles, while getting accustomed to playing first base.

"It's been a good start so far,'' Thompson said. "The season is still real young. I've still got to get a lot better. Our team is playing real well right now, a lot of guys stepping up in different spots.

 "It's a lot different [from high school],'' he said. "Obviously the pitching is way better. You've really got to earn your hits now.''

   Thompson was asked his mindset when players are on base and he's at bat. "Still just try to drive the ball up the middle and take what the defense gives you.''

  The first two games of the weekend series will be televised -- Friday night's 7 p.m. game by Sun Sports/FOX Sports Florida; and Saturday night's 7:30 p.m. game by Sun Sports. 

  SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

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